Bailey taps former top cop Gerald Coggin as interim police chief

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BAILEY — In a sudden reversal of last month’s decision to forgo hiring an interim police chief, Bailey commissioners voted Monday to appoint Gerald Coggin to the position until town leaders hire a permanent leader for the Bailey Police Department.

The decision came midway in the regular monthly meeting after discussion of old and new business, during the commissioners’ individual remarks. Newly appointed Commissioner Joel Killion spoke at length about citizens’ rights under the state constitution before making the motion to bring Coggin on as interim chief.

“I’ve heard from several of you that fewer citizens attend these meetings...and fewer are involved in town affairs, including voting, because they feel their voices and votes do not count. So, this government needs to get back to honoring the people as the true boss,” Killion said. “When this government fails to do its job, it is the right of the people to alter it in a way that seems to them best and the most likely to affect their safety and happiness...It is time for changes that will remove roadblocks to progress and allow Bailey to finally flourish.”

Coggin previously served as a Bailey police officer in 2003 before becoming police chief in 2004. He served in that role until September 2015, when he became chief of police at the Longleaf Neuro-Medical Treatment Center in Wilson.

Commissioners Allen Daniels, Dwan Finch and Killion voted in favor of Coggin’s reinstatement while Commissioners Shelley Bullard and Jerry Bissette voted against it. Bissette left immediately after the motion carried and did not return to the meeting.

“Is he resigning?” Mayor Thomas Richards asked of Bissette.

“He didn’t say anything, and he didn’t leave any paperwork,” Bullard answered.

On the heels of Killion’s remarks and motion, Mayor Thomas Richards said he wanted to “shake up” the positions on the board.

“I think we’ve lacked some communication,” Richards said.

Richards made a motion to replace Bissette with Killion as police commissioner and Bullard with Finch as mayor pro tempore. Bullard would remain cemetery commissioner while Bissette would become water and sewer commissioner. Richard’s motion passed as well, with Daniels, Finch and Killion voting in favor of the move and Bullard voting in opposition.

The board then went into the first of two closed sessions. After the first, the board approved Coggins’ starting rate of $18 per hour and a start date on or about Dec. 17. Coggins then asked to address the board in private, taking the board into its second closed session of the evening.

In other business, the board approved bringing on former Sharpsburg police chief John Hunt as a part-time police officer at the rate of $11 per hour. The board also approved a $1,500 contribution to the Bailey Chamber of Commerce for the Christmas parade on Dec. 1.

During scheduled comments, Bailey Postmaster Beverly Marriott thanked the board for its support during her 12-year tenure and announced she would be leaving effective Dec. 31.

“Never once have I been disappointed with the love and loyalty and support of this community,” Marriott said. “As a board, I hope you will continue to grow Bailey, because more than anything, I love this town and I know that it is worth every ounce of agony that you are experiencing. But it will be worth it.”