AUSTIN, Ark. (KTHV) — For the second time in just over a year, the mayor of Austin has fired the police chief.
Many residents claim to be frustrated by the decision. But if they wanted answers from city leaders, they did not get them Monday night.
Mayor Bernie Chamberlain and members of the city council chose not to address the firing of Bill Duerson or answer questions from the audience during Monday night’s city council meeting. The only words about the decision came from city attorney Greg Crumpton, who gave a statement at the end of the meeting.
“The chief of police does serve at the discretion of the mayor,” Crumpton said. “That decision was made to sever employment.”
That decision is not an unfamiliar one for Mayor Chamberlain. Duerson announced on Friday that he had been fired after just a year in the role. He replaced Jim Kulesa, who himself was fired in November 2016 after slightly more than two years as police chief.
“Mr. Duerson informed me that he intends to utilize an appeals process for his termination,” Crumpton said. “What I told him, and what I’ll tell y’all tonight, is that he has my cell phone, he’s gonna get in touch with me. We’ll make sure that he’s afforded all the due process that he’s entitled to.”
Dozens of people wrote on Facebook over the weekend about their frustration over losing someone they described as a good chief. The commenters praised Duerson for attending community events and listening to the people he served.
Duerson attended Monday night’s city council meeting, but did not want to speak on the record about his firing.
At the first council meeting after Kulesa was fired Crumpton and Lonoke County Sheriff John Staley answered questions from residents who were concerned about a potential lapse in police coverage as a result of Kulesa’s dismissal. Staley did not attend Monday night’s meeting, and Crumpton would only add that a notice of Duerson’s appeal hearing would be published.
“As far as the city goes tonight, that’s going to be the extent of the comment,” he said.