Town council linked to new hire
CLOVERDALE -- The Cloverdale Town Council members who voted to demote the former police chief at last week's meeting were tight-lipped about the reasons behind their decision to oust Cloverdale Police Chief Charlie Hallam.
Town Council President Don Sublett said he voted to demote Hallam because of numerous complaints he and other council members had received about Hallam's performance.
The complaints were not documented, however, only verbalized, Sublett said.
And though Sublett and council vice president Dennis Padgett said Hallam's demotion and Don Pearson's appointment as marshal were not politically motivated, new details show that Pearson has business ties to council members and their supporters.
Sublett would not give details about the complaints against Hallam, and said airing them in public could make the town liable for another lawsuit.
Similarly, Padgett said Hallam's demotion came as a result of numerous complaints he has received, but he declined to elaborate.
For his part, Hallam told the BannerGraphic he doubts the validity of the alleged complaints and said he should have had a chance to address them with the board.
Sublett said the board members could have forced a hearing of the safety board and formally aired the complaints against Hallam, or they could have demoted him and not given a reason.
"Those were our two legal options," he said. "We chose the latter."
Sublett and Padgett stood by their votes, saying that the town needed a change at the police department in order for it to move forward.
"I think this is in the same boat as getting the township fire department back," Sublett said. "People want this."
Pearson, who served as Cloverdale Police Chief for eight years and Putnam County Coroner for 10 years, was the best man to replace Hallam as chief, Sublett added.
The new marshal was sworn into office by a notary public at a private ceremony after the meeting Tuesday, Sublett said.
Sublett said Pearson was one of a handful of interested candidates who showed interest in the position.
Pearson told the BannerGraphic the town council president approached him four to five days before he was given the job and asked him to become town marshal.
Sublett and a member of Padgett's family have money invested in Pearson's newly-opened funeral home in Cloverdale, Donald L. Pearson Mortuary, according to Pearson and Sublett.
Sublett was one of several people who loaned Pearson money for his start-up and Padgett's family member bought a share in the business.
The funeral is a direct competitor with Whitaker Funeral Home, which is owned by the husband of board member Judy Whitaker. Whitaker has been an outspoken political opponent of Sublett, Padgett and Board member Glen Vickroy.
She also voted against demoting Hallam.
Sublett, however, said none of that had anything to do with Pearson's hiring.
Pearson, citing his years of law enforcement experience, said his funeral home business had no bearing on his selection as police chief.
He also said he never intended to return to the Cloverdale Police Department when he resigned in 2004, under pressure from the town council at that time.
For now, Pearson said his biggest priority as town marshal is to improve the police coverage in the town. Without a reserve division, he said, giving Cloverdale round-the-clock, seven-day-a-week police coverage is difficult with just four officers.
He also said Officer Jason Baugh, who has the least seniority on the police force, will likely be released from the duty so the police department can stay within its budget. Pearson said Baugh have a job with Cloverdale at least until he completes his police training. Baugh is currently at the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy.