Reno opts to move forward in 'separation agreement' with police chief

Reno city council members Thursday opted to move forward with a separation agreement with Reno Police Chief Tony Simmons.

RENO — The Reno police saga appears to be nearing its tail end, as council members Thursday opted to move forward with a separation agreement between the city and Reno Police Chief Tony Simmons.

The motion, following executive session, was made after terms discussed in said session, and Simmons will be on paid leave until Oct. 20, at which time a special session has been called for 6:30 p.m.

The news comes following a months-long tumultuous relationship between the police department and city council.

In late August, Simmons cited “low morale” as a reason for the rapid resignations of several officers. During that meeting, council members tabled salaries for two recently-promoted officers, who have since filed Texas Workforce claims against the city for unpaid wages and are no longer with the department. Reno issued a response to the claims, denying there were unpaid wages due because the promotions did not have city council’s approval.

Since Sept. 22, Simmons has been the lone officer of the department, and members of the Parker County Sheriff’s Office and the Pelican Bay Police Department have stepped in to provide additional coverage. Council members Thursday night approved payment of an invoice submitted by Pelican Bay for patrol services, with Mayor Pro Tem Randy Martin noting that with more invoices due to come in, the city “can probably look at a ballpark of around $3,000” to be paid monthly.

Speaking during public comment, resident Eric Hunter, who was mayor of Reno when Simmons signed a five-year contract in March 2020, called the council “a disgrace,” and accused them of having a goal to dismantle and defund the police department.

“Now, thanks to the six of you, we no longer have a police force. You’ve run them all off,” he said. “They didn’t leave because of the budget — they left because of y’all. They said so very clearly at the meeting on [Aug.] 23rd.”

In August, council members signed and presented a letter to the chief. Though they did not discuss the contents of the letter at the meeting, a copy obtained by the Weatherford Democrat lists 11 accusations the letter contends qualify as “incompetency, corruption, misconduct, or malfeasance” under Texas law and under Simmons’ employment agreement as “willful misconduct and gross negligence.”

Simmons was given a deadline of Sept. 9 to respond to the allegations, and a Freedom of Information Act request by the Democrat to receive those responses was declined by the city and forwarded to the Texas Attorney General’s Office for an opinion.

The Weatherford Democrat also sought any communication sent or received by council members regarding complaints or allegations of misconduct by the chief or police department between Jan. 1 and Aug. 30.

“The City of Reno has reviewed its files and has determined there are no responsive documents to your request,” according to an email by city attorneys.

Under the terms of the contract between the police chief and the city of Reno, Simmons’ annual base salary is $70,000. If terminated without cause prior to March 23, 2025, Simmons would receive one year’s salary.

Reno council Thursday postponed action on an interlocal agreement with Pelican Bay for police services, with Mayor Sam White noting they were “still working” on it.

In other business, the council also:

• Discussed details of a contract with Tarrant County Fire Alarm.

• Opted to meet with attorneys to streamline the city’s press release policy. 

• Entered discussion regarding traffic issues in the 2200 block of N. Cardinal Road.

• Approved an ordinance amending a section of the city code to take Simmons out of the ordinance as a municipal officer, an effort to eliminate “any conflicts between your interlocal agreement and police services,” attorney Dottie Palumbo said.

• Authorized the mayor and city administrator to consult with Lion Strategy Group for the review of police services, with a payment not to exceed $250.

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