A disgruntled Simpsonville Police force threatened legal action and mass resignations in October due to unhappiness with department management and Assistant Chief Colleen O'Neil, according to a WSPA report.
A letter from officers to the city dated October 22 and obtained by the station through a Freedom of Information Act request, stated unhappiness with Assistant Chief Colleen O'Neil, and the inability of newly hired Chief Keith Grounsell to do his job without interference from the city and O'Neil, whom Grounsell edged out for the chief's position in August.
None of the officers' complaints pertain to Grounsell, whom the officers have rallied around and widely support, the letter indicated. The letter also made it clear that the officers' unhappiness and threats of legal action and resignations were not influenced by Grounsell.
"We want it known that Chief Keith Grounsell has no knowledge of this letter, nor has he had any influence on the participating employees," the letter stated.
Both Mayor Perry Eichor and Council member Geneva Lawrence said there is no longer any danger of a "mass resignation" of the city's police.
Here is a copy of the full letter sent to the city:
October 22, 2012
To Whom It May Concern,
We are respectfully sending this letter out of concern for the future of our department.
We want it known that Chief Keith Grounsell has no knowledge of this letter, not has he had any influence on the participating employees.
Since Chief Grounsell's first day on the job (9-18-2012) morale at the Police Department has completely turned around. It is definitely better than it has been in the last 12 years and we are excited about the direction Chief Grounsell is attempting. The number of quality applicants wanting to work for the Simpsonville Police Department has drastically increased. We feel that City Council made the right decision in their selection, and stand behind him and his efforts for future growth and development 100%.
Our concern is that we believe we are working in a very stressful working environment and have been for at least 12 years. There are two people that we feel have been reponsible for this direction. One of them has retired and the other is Asst. Chief Colleen O'Neil. She does not interact with anyone and stays in her office with the door closed which is perceived as a barrier. Barriers in the workplace, between supervisors and employees, create a feeling of secrecy and distrust. She is condescending toward employees, and seems to talk down to them. Since the announcement that Chief Grounsell got the job, there was an obvious attitude change in Asst. Chief O'Neil. We understand that she may have been disappointed about not getting the job, but none of the staff at the department had anything to do with that decision. Since Chief Grounsell's first day her attitude toward him is obviously one of disrespect and has been noticed by all. If she cannot handle the fact that she was not chosen for the job, how can she assist in commanding the department and work with Chief Grounsell? She then resigned only to be allowed to return by the City Administarator just as she left. It is our understanding that this was done before Chief Grounsell was in office, but had already been given the job. This was also AFTER City Council voted that an employee was NOT guaranteed to return as they left. It is also our understanding that when she was to return on October 16, 2012 there was going to be what we felt were positive changes made in the command structure of the department. This had to be put on hold for whatever reason. The former administration never had to get approval for such. She has been given carte blanche and we do not feel that Chief Grounsell can be successful with taking this department into the future with her as his second in command.
We respectfully come to you for assistance in resolving the matter. We would ask that this issue to be look into in a timely manner. If we do not get any response, then we are prepared to seek legal counsel. We are also prepared to contact the media and resign as a group from employment with the City of Simpsonville. The media will also be made aware that the citizens of Simpsonville will be paying for Greenville County Sheriff's Office to provide police service because the City Council failed to do its job and protect the employees, which forced 25+ Police Officers and Dispatchers to resign.
We also want you to be aware that we will be attending the next council meeting, and any other meeting where there is an executive session to discuss a police matter, to show unified support for Chief Grounsell.
Should you wish to contact us we will be available to meet as a group at your convenience.
Respectfully and United,