Should Tandy Carter lose his job over this?

The simple answer is NO, in the shoulda woulda coulda sense that things should not have come to this pass:

Columbia police chief’s job in jeopardy

Carter’s refusal to hand over crash probe to outside agency angers City Council

Columbia Police Chief Tandy Carter, who has been staring down City Council over his decision to investigate Mayor-elect Steve Benjamin’s car accident, could lose his job next week.

Carter refused to hand over the investigation to an outside agency against the wishes of City Council, which is concerned about the public’s perception of special treatment. But the tipping point seems to be Carter’s request for a state attorney general’s opinion regarding what City Council can and cannot tell him to do.

“I just need to think about this whole situation on requesting an AG opinion on whether or not I have the authority to direct him to do something,” said city manager Steve Gantt, who under state law is the police chief’s supervisor. “I have to figure out what in the world he is thinking about and make a decision on what I think is in the long-term best interest for the city of Columbia.”…

But I wonder what choice Steve Gantt and City Council will have going forward. Gantt says he’s been asking the chief to request an outside review of the case for two weeks. Now, he’s going to tell him to do it.

Meanwhile, Chief Carter is asking the state attorney general to rule on whether his bosses can tell him what to do. Which is really, really weird.

Yes, I know that Columbia’s system of government diffuses and confuses the lines of accountability, but this is just too wild.

I hate that we may be about to lose a good police chief over this — and by most accounts, he has been a good chief at a time when Columbia needed one — but his behavior in this case has puzzled me from the start.

Mind you, I am sympathetic to his insistence on letting the duly sworn cops with jurisdiction in the case do their jobs. Normally, I say the same thing: When Congress starts calling for a special prosecutor, I always wish they’d let the FBI or whoever just investigate and be the professionals they are. But this case was especially sensitive. It happened to the soon-to-be mayor with whom Chief Carter was publicly disagreeing just a week before.

I could see myself saying, “Dammit, I know I’m a professional who can do his job with integrity, and I don’t care what anyone says.” But there are larger things than the professional pride of the police — such as the good of the city. And the good of the city required that any whiff of doubt about interest in this case be eliminated from the start.

And that didn’t happen. And the chief dug in. And the chief ignored the wishes of his bosses for two weeks. Why, I don’t know. But I also don’t know how they can sit still for it.

3 thoughts on “Should Tandy Carter lose his job over this?

  1. Kathryn Fenner

    Look, if the concern is that Tandy Carter is going to show favoritism to a council member, he’s shown that that is not the case. He does not bend to the micromanaging of City Council.

    I disagree with the AG’s opinion–posted on Adam’s blog. I commented there about how the opinion makes a logical leap from saying the city manager can direct the police chief to therefore city council can. It’s a question of representational control–council is not supposed to micromanage–they set policy–future accidents can ALL be turned over–that’s a policy. Saying this particular one must be is micromanaging.

    Besides, the HP said they won’t take it–they will review, but not take over.

    It would be as if the board of directors for McClatchy told Warren what to write about. Warren’s boss, whoever that may be, does that. If the board generally dislikes what is done, they may set a different policy on what is to be written, but any individual article, no.

  2. Brad

    That analogy doesn’t work.

    It would be better if you explained it as the difference between legislative and executive functions.

    Problem is, those functions aren’t separate here. The council hires and fires the city manager, which puts it in the chain of command. You’re gonna say, But that’s a horrible system! And you’re right. It is.

  3. Kathryn Fenner

    Unlike the rest of the planet, I don’t think council/manager’s a horrible system, and it IS like a board of directors and a CEO. The B/D hires and fires the CEO, but it cannot fire the CEO’s personal assistant, say. They can threaten to fire the CEO if s/he doesn’t fire the PA, but they cannot do so.

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