SHEFFIELD — Greg Ray will be back at work today as Sheffield’s police chief for first time since Oct. 26.
From his viewpoint, it’s not a minute too soon.
“I’m ready to get back to work and make sure the citizens of Sheffield are safe and protected,” Ray said Thursday, moments after learning the city’s Civil Service Board reinstated him as police chief.
Ray, 54, was fired by Mayor Ian Sanford on Oct. 26 after being given the choice of resigning or face termination. The mayor cited insubordination, malfeasance in office and conduct detrimental to the Sheffield Police Department as his reasons for action against Ray.
Civil Service Board members heard Ray’s appeal over a two-day period. Their decision to reinstate him as chief was announced Thursday.
The letter notifying Ray and city officials states: “It is our duty to determine if these charges were proven at the hearing held in response to them to the extent that they constitute ‘cause’ within the meaning of the (Civil Service Act). Our conclusion is that they do not.”
“It’s a big relief, of course,” said Ray, who has been on leave with pay as he moved through the termination appeal process. “I thank the Civil Service Board for their wisdom and understanding. I believe their decision is fair and just.”
Ray joined the department in 1992 and has served as police chief since 2007.
Sanford said he knew the board’s decision could have gone either way, but added he’s disappointed the board did not hand out some form of disciplinary action.
“But I am a big believer in the system,” Sanford said. “I appreciate the board’s time and I know they took this matter seriously. I can live with their determination. I accept it and we can move on from here. I’m glad it’s over.
“I guess we now start a new day. I will shake his hand when he gets back to work, talk to him and go over some things. I would like to think he will do what is expected of him and we can move forward.”
Sanford said he holds no grudges toward Ray or anyone else in the process.
Tony Hughes, a Florence attorney who along with James Irby, represented Ray, said he’s pleased the process worked. The hearing was open to the public at Ray’s request and attracted dozens of police department members from Sheffield and other agencies as well as area residents.
“This is why we have the process,” Hughes said. “You have a neutral panel, the facts are presented by both sides and they make the decision based on what they hear and by what they think is fair. We had confidence from the start they would be open-minded, listen to the evidence and make the appropriate and just decision.”
Hughes said he, Irby and Ray received numerous calls from supporters, “and that meant a lot to Greg.”
“I’ve known Greg for 20 years and I’ve never doubted his ability to lead the Sheffield Police Department, and I believe in that ability more now. I’m happy for Greg, his wife, the department and the city of Sheffield.”
Sanford said the decision to reinstate Ray was likely based on his lack of documenting meetings when the two discussed issues that needed addressing.
He said it’s a lesson he learned from the process.
Board members seemed to focus during the hearing on the fact that Ray was never told he could lose his job if he failed to correct issues brought to his attention by the mayor and council members.
Ray said he will do things differently, too.
“Anytime you go through something like this, you learn something — both good and bad,” Ray said. “I will better accept constructive criticism and improve the lines of communication. I want to perform my duty to the best of my abilities, especially for the citizens of Sheffield.”
Ray said he doesn’t expect internal conflicts to arise as a result of his reinstatement.
“We are all adults and professionals,” he said. “We all want what’s best for the city and to make our community safe.”
Mike Goens can be reached at mike.goens@TimesDaily.com or 256-740-5740.