Local News

Durham Officials Reconsider Police Chief

Posted November 21, 2002 9:35 a.m. EST

— Durham may soon be looking for a new police chief - again.

Douglas Scott was selected for the post last month after a nine-month search. Though City Manager Marcia Conner said in a late-night press release that no final decisions have been made regarding Scott, it was reported Wednesday that Scott does not want the job because of disagreement over his contract terms.

Scott accepted the position and was expected to start Dec. 1. On Wednesday afternoon, it was announced that the start date was pushed back to Dec. 18, so that Scott and Conner could resolve an issue concerning his health benefits.

Wednesday night, when the City Council apparently couldn't agree to the contract Scott wanted, Scott reportedly pulled out.

Conner offered no confirmation that Scott turned down the job and called an emergency meeting of the City Council Thursday at noon to discuss Scott's contract demands.

"At this point, we are still in discussions and haven't reached any final decisions concerning Mr. Scott,"Conner said in a statement released late Wednesday. "I plan to go into closed session to discuss the matter further with Council members (Thursday) at work session."

Scott apparently had a problem with his health benefits package and would have been taking an almost $40,000 pay cut to come to Durham from the U.S. Department of Interior.

Scott, who is currently an Assistant Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Interior, has not given notice to his current employer.

Two previous police chief searches in the Bull City have ended with the chosen candidate accepting the job, then stepping down.

Durham has not had a permanent police chief since Teresa Chambers resigned to take over the National Park Service last February. Steve Chalmers, eliminated by City Manager Marcia Conner as a candidate for the permanent job during the first search, has served as interim chief ever since.

Council member John Best said Conner plans to ask Chalmers to become the permanent chief if the issue with Scott cannot be resolved.

Chalmers reportedly is still interested in becoming permanent chief. He was one of three finalists for the position during the first search but was eliminated from contention after Conner learned that Chalmers' ex-wife accused him of assault in the 1980s.

Chalmers was never convicted of assault in that incident.

Conner also said she had concerns that Chalmers was untruthful in his responses to some questions during an interview with the consulting firm Conner hired to help screen candidates.

Wednesday's reversal is the latest in a series of problems trying to fill the police chief's position. An initial search ended without a chief because domestic abuse allegations surfaced after Conner selected Greg Watkins.

Concerned about the way Conner has handled the search for a chief as well as her admitted mishandling of some city contracts, the City Council met for two days this week to discuss whether or not to fire her.

The council announced Tuesday night that Conner could keep her job under strict conditions, including a small paycut, professional development classes and monthly performance reviews.