JENNINGS, Fla. — Vincent Robinson is back as the police chief in Jennings.
At a termination hearing Thursday, the Jennings Town Council voted by a 3-2 decision to reinstate Robinson to the chief of police with the Jennings Police Department. Mayor John Prine and Vice Mayor Charles Barrett opposed the reinstatement.
Robinson was terminated by former Town Manager Martha Butler on April 17. He then requested the hearing at the council’s April 21 meeting.
According to Robinson’s letter of termination, the former chief failed to adhere to the police department’s policies, including some actions that took place prior to the administrative leave he was currently on due to being investigated by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
The letter stated five reasons for the termination, with at least one of them described as a “serious offense” in the town’s personnel policy.
Among those reasons for the firing were Robinson’s recent behavior at town hall when he received a speeding citation that also involved a response from the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office. Statements from the previous town clerk and deputy clerk of harassment and fear for their safety were also considered as well as a statement from a previous animal control officer for the town that feared for her safety. Also listed were previous reprimands for unprofessional posting on social media accounts last year and a picture posted on social media of Robinson holding a bottle of alcohol while in his office at town hall.
Each of the five reasons for the termination were addressed in the hearing by Robinson and his attorney, Jeffrey Totty.
Christy Smith, the town’s former clerk, did appear at the hearing and speak about fearing for her safety around Robinson. However, Totty objected to the claims as defamation of character due to her statement coming at a time when Robinson was on administrative leave for a non-work related issue.
Neither the town’s former deputy clerk or animal control officer appeared at the hearing.
Robinson has more than 30 years experience in law enforcement, including drug task force experience, commander status, as well as being a part of the Florida Chiefs Association.
During closing arguments, it was stated that if Robinson had treated the council the way he treated his own officer in regards to the speeding citation, there would be no question of how the council would respond that night.
However it was also stated that if there had been a human resources chain of command, the situation possibly would have never occurred.
The question of the evening at the end of the closing arguments was, “Do you want Vincent Robinson as your chief of police?”
That was answered with a motion of reinstatement, which was approved by the narrow margin.
Robinson will be given backpay from the time of his termination up until April 30.
“I am very honored to be able to continue to serve the fine citizens of Jennings,” Robinson said after being reinstated. “I am grateful to be back as their chief, and to be able to do my job to the best of my ability for my citizens of Jennings.”