Demorest Mayor calls rehiring of fired police chief a 1st Amendment victory

Demorest Mayor Rick Austin thinks his city has won a major victory for good government and the first amendment.

"The people's voice was heard loud and clear, said Austin.

Last week the I-Team told you how the firing of the Demorost police chief ignited a special called meeting that had some in Demorest  saying the first amendment had been put on the back burner.

The special called meeting followed a controversial firing. Seems a police officer criticized the city's new trash cans on Facebook.

Mayor Rick Austin told us the city manager ordered police chief Robin Krockum to punish the officer. The chief refused, so the city manager fired him. And that firing of a popular chief upset a lot of citizens.  

"At the end of the day this boils down to a first amendment issue," said Austin.
Protesters were kept outside. The Mayor refused to attend, calling it an illegal meeting.

City manager Kim Simonds, who fired Chief Krockum, said since the mayor wouldn't attend she didn't have a quorom and called the meeting off.  

So, Tuesday night, they tried again.

This time a microphone was set up so citizens could be heard. Outside during a roaring thunderstorm, more than 75 people gathered to watch a live feed of the council in action on a big screen TV.

And so the people spoke; the council listened. They did about an abrupt about face, voting unanimously to reinstate former Police Chief Robin Krockum.

"Lots of happy folks, the Mayor happy, the people in that room that night are happy with the chief coming back," said Austin.

Chief Krockum's attorney Tom Kirkbride said he expects the chief to return, but he needs to reach a settlement with the city and decide what to do with the city manager who fired him.    

Mayor Austin asked city manager Kim Simonds, who fired the chief, to resign. She responded the next day that she would stay on writing: "It really is my hope that we can move forward and get the real work of the City accomplished."