City Manager discusses police chief

Bill Hancock
Runnels County Register

Ballinger recently hired a new police chief named Ray Cornutt. He is from Sweetwater, the same department that city manager Brian Frieda came from. Current police chief Stan Maresch will step down to lieutenant/investigator. Maresch stepping back and the new police chief hiring came as a surprise to most citizens in the community.

Ballinger City Manager Brian Frieda discussed the process for hiring new police chief Ray Cornutt.

Frieda spoke about how they came to the decision to hire a new police chief, "We were looking for a lieutenant investigator. During the course of that search, Stan came to me a few times and hinted that he might like to have that job. We discussed it several times and when he made the decision to step back, our search then became a search for a police chief. We put it on TML, TPSA, etc."

Maresch and Frieda both released statements a couple of weeks ago, where Maresch stated that he was voluntarily taking the lieutenant position. He also spoke at the last council meeting and asked to be "unappointed" from the chief position and then appointed to the lieutenant position. Frieda said that the idea of Maresch stepping into the lieutenant position isn't something that recently popped, "Everyone should understand that Stan and I started talking about this when I got here back in July. He'd been dropping hints to me since then."

Frieda spoke about Maresch's performance as the police chief and his quick promotion with only 2 years on the department, "Two years not enough experience to be chief. I told him that he was a young officer thrown into this scenario. I told him him that he'd done well with what he was given." According to Frieda, the situation came down to three options, "1. Do nothing; 2. Create the LT/Detective position and leave Stan as chief. 3. He could step down to the LT/Detective position and we could bring someone else in as chief."

Frieda's plan is to send the chief, lieutenant and sergeant to various leadership schools, evidence handling and processing schools along with other various schools to develop the three supervisors.

There has been some concern around town with citizens not knowing that the search for a lieutenant had become a search for a police chief. In the last issue of the newspaper, I wrote that the lieutenant position hadn't been discussed. Financial Director John Pierik said that was incorrect. He said that it had been discussed at a December meeting.

You'll have to watch the city council videos to see it as previous councils have refused to post the council minutes since March of 2019. Several outside of the last council meeting see this as a lack of transparency as the posting of the minutes has previously been brought up in past council meetings. Many times there are no packets on information being discussed handed out at council meetings and they no longer use the overhead screen.

Frieda said that during their search for a chief, the events of 2020 and the timing effected their search, "It was a weird year. No one was really interested in moving here. It's always hard getting people to move during the holidays." As for the chief search and decisions that were made "People are reading so much more into this," Frieda said.

Part of Frieda's goal is to improve service, "We want to be able to provide the same competent level of service that people in larger cities have. We want to be more proactive and not reactive. And that goes for every department in the city."

Frieda has known incoming police chief Ray Cornutt for numerous years, "I know that if I need something done, I don't have to worry about whether or not it's going to get done."

Frieda also elaborated on the proclamation at the last city council meeting that gave him day-to-day control of the police department. Originally many in attendance at the council meeting were against it, but after discussion the proclamation was passed with the caveat that the control would expire at the next charter election, "Even back in April and May they were talking about putting the city manager in charge of the day-to-day operations of the police department." The topic has come up from time to time, dating back to when Tommy Turney was the city manager.

This proclamation differs significant from Prop C that was voted down in 2019. Prop C was encompassed more than just the police department, it also included the fire department. The proclamation passed out council is only in regards to the police department.

Brian Frieda gives a weekly update/interview to the newspaper. Those updates will be posted on Wednesday afternoon and in the newspaper the following week.