Clever Police Chief Darren Whisnant’s last day on the job will be Feb. 15.
Citing broken promises, discrepancies with insurance benefits and a “hostile work environment,” Whisnant handed in a letter of resignation on Jan. 31. The law enforcement veteran with more than 30 years of experience resigned after spending just over a year working in Clever.
“It ultimately came down to—back in January 2017 I accepted the job with pay and benefits being discussed and agreed upon before I left the Nixa Police Department to come to Clever as the police chief,” Whisnant said.
Clever Mayor Jaredd King said he met with Whisnant at the police department on Jan. 31, at which point Whisnant handed the mayor a letter of resignation.
“Anytime we have an employee of the city leave, I am disappointed. We don’t want to see any of our employees feel like they need to resign from their positions,” King said.
Whisnant said he “was promised” a monthly healthy insurance rate of $225, which would provide coverage for Whisnant and his wife. The city of Clever offers 100-percent health, dental and life insurance coverage to about 10 of its employees, but spouses are not extended the same coverage. Whisnant’s monthly insurance rate, the chief said, is $666.
About two weeks into the new job, Whisnant said he had a conversation about benefits with the mayor.
“Mayor King advised me that they couldn’t fulfill the agreement, but they would get it fixed. I’ve given them a year to get it fixed,” Whisnant said. “It became obvious to me that they were not going to fulfill any of the promises that were being made.”
Whisnant also alleged that members of the City Hall staff created a “hostile work environment.” Due to what he said is a combination of a loss of money and a desire to look out for his own mental health, Whisnant is walking away.
“It was extremely difficult. I see everything that we have accomplished at Clever within a year, and I know the potential that the city has for the police officers, for the police department and for the citizens,” Whisnant said.
A Clever Board of Aldermen meeting Jan. 15, proved to be a tipping point. Whisnant addressed the board on two separate issues: a request for a wage increase for police officers and a request to change the police department’s holiday pay policy in a manner Whisnant said would have saved the city about $6,000. A motion to enact the holiday time off policy died for lack of a second.
King wanted Whisnant to show some patience.
“(Whisnant) didn’t give us any specifics or recommendations at that time, so we scheduled that discussion as part of our upcoming budget meeting that we haven’t even had yet, so we haven’t had the opportunity to fully tackle that subject,” King said.
The police pay discussion is supposed to be brought up at a budget session on Feb. 12.
“He’s already gathering information from the other police departments, he felt like he would have more than enough information to present to council on the 12th, and he offered to present that, and I wholeheartedly support that,” King said.
Whisnant will still be Clever’s police chief at the time of that meeting, and said he intends to participate professionally and cooperatively.
“These next two weeks are going to be in a hyper mode of trying to get as much done for the community and for the officers that I can possibly get done,” Whisnant said.
The Clever Police Department has five full-time employees in addition to the chief. The city also employs five part-time reserve officers. Four of those reserve officers turned in resignations at the same time Whisnant did.
The Clever Board of Aldermen scheduled a special meeting Feb. 5. King said it will be a closed session meeting where the board will consider Whisnant’s formal resignation and start the process for advertising an open police chief position.
“That’s more of a formality than anything,” King said.
Clever is left in the same position it was one year ago, searching for a leader for its police department. King believes the scenario is slightly different this time.
“My hope is that the process is not as long this time, because we were dealing with a diff dynamic then. We had a lot of things to figure out. I feel like our department is in a really good position. I feel like we’ll get some qualified candidates,” King said.