WARNER ROBINS, Ga. — It was the first time the full Warner Robins city leadership faced the public after longtime Police Chief Brett Evans' sudden retirement two weeks ago.
Mayor Randy Toms said some council members had pressured Evans to step down.
And that wasn't the only contentious issue at Monday night's mayor and council meeting.
The people in the room made sure council knew how they felt about it all.
The first flashpoint came about halfway through the meeting when Councilman Clifford Holmes floated the idea of pay raises for city council that would nearly double their current salary of about $5,000.
He said Warner Robins councilmembers are paid less than those in similar-sized cities in Central Georgia.
Coming in the wake of an already contentious few weeks in the International City, public reaction was strong.
"In my humble opinion, work for free," one man said.
Another, Ansel Peck, told the council chamber, "The council is working for nothing and you get nothing in response if you don't pay them a little more money."
The real fireworks kicked off when Police Department spokesperson Jennifer Parson took the microphone and spoke about Chief Evans' retirement.
"When you have 32 years of service that you've given to the community and it's ripped away from you and it's not your choice, I think everyone that does service in their community feels like, 'If they can do that to a man with 32 years of service, they can do it to anybody in the police department,'" she said.
That comment, plus others she made to media on the night of Evans' retirement, didn't sit well with Councilman Tim Thomas.
"Ms. Parsons [sic], I'm going to address you since you addressed us," he said. "I was very disappointed in your statements two weeks ago Monday night. They were out of line. You used your position in the PD to put up your personal feelings on that...news. Let's not let that happen again."
Parson then interrupted, saying, "Sir, I was not using my feelings."
Thomas cut her off, saying, "No, no, no. I'm speaking now."
Parson fired back, "I was speaking honestly."
Thomas, shaking his finger at her, then said "Honestly, listen, you're hired to do a professional job and we expect you it from now on, and that's the end of it."
When we asked Acting Chief John Wagner if Parson was speaking on behalf of the department or as a private citizen during her time in front of council, all he would say was, "We're going to have a conversation."
We then asked if Parson's job in the department was now in jeopardy. Again, all Wagner would say on the matter was, "We're going to have a conversation."