Leadwood is, once again, without a police chief.
Leadwood Mayor Ed Austin confirmed Tuesday morning he suspended Police Chief Emily Portell on Nov. 9, just before he left to hunt deer in the Lake Wappapello area, and that she is under internal investigation.
Austin said he has called a Board of Aldermen meeting for Thursday at 6 p.m., which will be closed to the public as aldermen discuss the investigation and what actions might be taken. Further details on the reasons behind the suspension are being withheld.
According to the mayor, while the board hires and fires employees, the mayor can take disciplinary action or suspend employees without a meeting or vote of the aldermen.
“I can suspend anyone on the payroll until an investigation is done. I don’t need board approval for that,” he said. “I can’t go into it more because it might bring on more problems than her (Portell) or we need.”
Austin said the town still has three reserve officers and he’s spoken to Sheriff Dan Bullock about adding deputy shifts to augment law enforcement coverage.
Portell is the sixth police chief the small, former mining town has had in the past two years. She took over the job from Jason Jarvis, who served the town for about four months, having taken over the job from John Spradling.
Spradling had served since May 2021, after Greg Northrup left in April 2021. Northrup had taken over the department from former chief William Dickey, who had been fired in September 2020 after being arrested on multiple felony charges including stealing a firearm, explosive weapon or ammonium nitrate, tampering with physical evidence in a felony prosecution and hindering prosecution of a felony. His case continues to make its way through the court system.
Sarah Haas is the assistant editor for the Daily Journal. She can be reached at 573-518-3617 or firstname.lastname@example.org.