NEW SUMMERFIELD — New Summerfield Mayor Dan Stallings said Sunday he is “suspending any further relationship” between newly-hired police chief Michael Meissner and the city until the New Summerfield City Council meets March 27.

“Due to negative publicity about the city of New Summerfield over the past couple of years, we need this like the proverbial hole in the head,” Stallings said in a press release issued Sunday afternoon.

Potential problems with Meissner’s hiring were described in a story in Sunday’s Jacksonville Daily Progress, which reported that the veteran police officer has worked 16 law enforcement jobs in 13 years, has been arrested three times (charges were dismissed in two arrests; one is pending) and that his Master Peace Officer certificate has been revoked.

In addition to the Jacksonville Daily Progress story, a similar story about Meissner’s background was reported on Jan. 18 by WFAA-TV Channel 8 in Dallas and by the Athens Daily Review.

Stallings disputed much of the Daily Progress’ story on Sunday. The mayor said he checked Meissner’s background with the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement.

“Mr. Meissner provided the City of New Summerfield with a packet containing employment records, letters of recommendations from various mayors and former employers as well as proficiency certificates from the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement,” Stallings said.

“He was interviewed by me and interviewed privately in executive session at a regular council meeting by the city council, meeting outside my presence. The council agreed that his employment be considered and that he would be a probationary employee. These matters were all discussed last Tuesday evening, March 13.

“On Friday morning while on my way to Temple, Texas to retrieve my ailing, 87-year-old father from the Veterans Administration Hospital, I was contacted on my cell phone by someone identified as James Heironimus of the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement. Mr. Heironimus asked me a couple of pointed questions about Meissner then proceeded to speak in vague terms about Meissner’s history. I stated to the alleged TCLEOSE representative that perhaps he could be more on point ...

“Mr. Heironimus stated that perhaps I would like to go to on the Internet to seek any information that I might be interested in.

“I asked Mr. Heironimus if he was telling me that Meissner was not certified with TCLEOSE. He answered, “No.” I asked if he was telling me that Meissner had been convicted of a felony, Class A or Class B misdemeanor to which he answered, “No.” In fact to all my questions to Heironimus, I was left with the feeling that, at best, our conversation was unusual.”

Stallings said Meissner’s last position — as police chief of Caney City — was a positive experience, according to Caney City Mayor Joe Barron.

“According to Mayor Barron, Meissner served Caney City with distinction and that had newspaper politics and these continuing harassing allegations not been waged against Mr. Meissner, he would still be working there. In fact, Mayor Barron stated that if not for the politics of the situation, he would hire Meissner back.”

Stallings said he has spoken with mayors from at least three other cities for which Meissner worked.

The mayor said he is suspending final action on Meissner’s employment because the criticisms from various sources would make him an ineffective witness in criminal cases.

“Whether true or not, because of the article in the Jacksonville Daily Progress, because of the Web site, because of dismissed criminal charges, because of the animosity of people unknown and because of Mr. Heironimus, all relationships between New Summerfield and Mr. Meissner have been damaged beyond repair.

“Mr. Meissner’s credibility at the courthouse or in the courtroom will always be in question, which would make him an ineffective witness in any criminal case. Public respect for his position, him personally and the City of New Summerfield would it impossible for him to serve.

“I am therefore publicly suspending any further relationship with Mr. Meissner and the City of New Summerfield. This matter will be referred to the New Summerfield City Council at the next regular meeting on March 27 for final action.

“Were I Mr. Meissner, I would be seeking an attorney to get TCLEOSE and others to cease and desist in their crusade.”

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