There was tension between Councilman Mike Miller and Police Chief Gary Sparks during a committee meeting Thursday when the Douglasville City Council met for its regular work session.
Jacob's Engineering presented their findings so far from their review of the city's community and development services function. Among their suggestions was considering moving code enforcement back to community and development services from the police department. Jacobs told the council some cities and counties have code enforcement under the police department and some have it under community development.
“It basically comes down to the culture,” a Jacob’s Engineering representative said. “The culture of the police department and the culture of community development. Whereas as the culture of the police department is to serve and protect, while the culture of community development is to promote the health, safety, and welfare of the community through all of the different tools it has in place to make that happen.”
During the comments portion of the presentation, Miller shared his thoughts on the proposed change.
“We need to go with whatever division is going to prioritize,” Miller said. “Law enforcement doesn’t think that code enforcement is a priority. We need people who will be on the lookout. I shouldn’t as a councilman have to drive all over this city and notice where code enforcement is not doing their job. So that’s an important aspect at this point. We need it in a position where it is going to be their job to do, they prioritize it as a job, and we got the people who are there, hired, who are qualified to do their job. And where it’s at right now it’s not getting done.”
Sparks responded immediately: “Well I don’t agree with you right there."
Miller responded to the chief as his voice began to raise.
“Well you cannot agree with me, too — why don’t you let the city officials — this is our meeting here,” Miller said.
Sparks then explained why he spoke, with increased intensity behind his voice.
“Well, you’re talking about what’s all related,” Sparks said.
Councilman and Community and Economic Development Committee Chairman Mark Adams then tried to quell the situation.
“Gentlemen, I don’t think this is the time or place for you to discuss this matter,” Adams said.
“This is exactly the time,” Miller said.
“I don’t think so Mr. Miller, with all due respect,” Adams said. “I don’t think so. We’re trying to let these people give us an idea of what we may want to do, and I know there are some contentious issues between some of us about it. But with the qualification of people and personnel that are here, I don’t think that’s appropriate.”
Miller responded in a more subdued tone.
“Well, Mr. Chairman, we’re here talking to people that we’ve hired to lay out a plan to get our code enforcement working in the right direction,” Miller said.
“I totally agree,” Adams said.
“Right now, I’m wanting to have that discussion with the people who are going to give us recommendations about our code enforcement,” Miller said. “I’m sorry, but I should be able to have that conversation.”
“And I want you to, Mr. Miller, but I don’t think ...,” Adams said before being cut off.
“Well I was interrupted by the chief,” Miller said.
“The only thing I’ll say Mr. Miller is I don’t think it’s appropriate to go on a personal attack,” Adams said.
“I was not making a personal attack,” Miller said. “I was simply saying that in my opinion, the code enforcement is not being prioritized where it’s at. That’s an important issue to discuss with the people who are going to make the recommendation.”
Sparks didn’t stay with the council members for the 6 p.m. work session meeting, but instead attended a meeting along with Capt. Greg Weaver and Capt. Tommy Deming with residents from the Fairways subdivision to discuss topics like the community outreach program, holiday safety tips, neighborhood watch programs, and code enforcement issues.
The city council is expected to discuss the findings from Jacobs Engineering at its planning retreat in January.