Bono city council backs mayor's decision to fire police chief

BONO, AR (KAIT) - For the fourth time in roughly eight years, the police chief for the city of Bono was fired.

Bono Mayor Billy Stephens fired Chief Robert Jones two days before Christmas and Thursday night, the majority of the city council backed his decision. Shirley Dodson and Garrett Barnes voted against Mayor Stephens.

Residents weren't happy but Jones wasn't surprised.

The fate of Jones' position within the city had been hanging in the balance since December 23. Jones said Mayor Stephens called him into his office and handed him a letter stating that he was no longer employed by the city and to return his keys and uniform in his possession as soon as possible.

Thursday, council members met for just ten minutes before going into an hour long executive session to discuss Jones' position.

Jones said during that time, he felt the council would back the mayor

"It's not about the citizens of this town, it's about what's best for city hall and certain people in the city hall," Jones told Region 8 News.

Though Stephens did not say in the meeting why he chose to fire Jones, he previously stated it was for "insubordination". Jones disagrees, saying he felt it was because he stood up for his department.

"It all boils down to me making a comment about our overtime and they didn't want to give us that," Jones said. "As police officers, we feared that if we turned in our overtime, we'd lose our jobs and have to go back to a four man department and we didn't want to have to do that. Therefore, we didn't turn in our overtime."

Though Jones is now out of a job, he was thankful for the support the community gave him, as roughly 400 signatures were presented to the council to keep Jones as chief.

"Wish I could've been here and stayed with it and done more for 'em," he said.

Jones said from here, he's not sure what will happen.

"We'll just have to wait and see. Put it in God's hands and hope for the best."

Stephens did not wish to comment after the meeting on Jones' termination but plenty in attendance did. Following the 4-2 vote in favor of the mayor's decision, many said the reason Jones was fired was petty compared to why the three former Bono police chiefs were forced from office.

In 2006, former Police Chief Rick Duhon was convicted of sexual assault of a minor and sentenced to six years in prison. Jim Matha filled in as interim chief and a year later, faced sexual assault of a minor charges too. He was sentenced to three years probation.

Lance Suttles served as chief until 2012 when he was accused of sexual assault. Though those charges were dropped, he was eventually charged with disorderly conduct.

Jones served as chief for roughly a year and a half.

Currently, Chris Patrick is serving as the department's interim chief.

Stephens said the situation won't be discussed again until their next city council meeting.

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