State probing Perryville's ex-chief

Friday, October 25, 2013
Keith Tarrillion

PERRYVILLE, Mo. -- As voters prepare to decide how the city will select its future police chiefs, the state attorney general's office is investigating the conduct of Perryville's last chief.

Nanci Gonder, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Chris Koster, said Judge Michael Bullerdieck issued an order Sept. 26 appointing Koster's office to look into allegations against Keith Tarrillion, who resigned as Perryville's police chief in March after being accused of conduct "inconsistent with his official character and duty."

"We were assigned by the judge to investigate," Gonder said.

Meanwhile, Perryville's city attorney again is asking a judge whether the city can make public an investigative report into Tarillion's conduct that a judge initially ordered sealed.

In March, the Southeast Missourian filed an open-records request for documents related to Tarrillion's resignation and the investigation into his conduct.

Circuit Judge Benjamin Lewis approved the release of some documents but barred the city from releasing a private investigator's 12-page report on Tarrillion's conduct "until the investigation becomes inactive" as defined by state law.

The status of that investigation has been hazy in recent weeks.

Earlier this month, Perryville city attorney Thomas Ludwig said he didn't know who had the investigation, which city officials passed to the Missouri State Highway Patrol in March.

Responding to a new open-records request by the Southeast Missourian this week, Ludwig said the city's investigation into the matter was complete.

On Thursday, Ludwig sent the Southeast Missourian a copy of a request for "appropriate modification of judgment and permanent injunction" he filed in Perry County circuit court in response to the new open-records request.

In the document, Ludwig asked the court's permission to release the private investigator's report to the newspaper.

The city "stands ready to release the twelve pages upon leave being granted by the court," Ludwig wrote, noting "any further investigation has been conducted by the Missouri State Highway Patrol and not the respondent," that the city's investigation is inactive and that the city "has no access to any investigation conducted by the Missouri State Highway Patrol ... and, therefore, has nothing from that investigation to release."

Ludwig also wrote that Perry County Prosecuting Attorney Thomas Hoeh had recused himself from the case and referred it to Koster's office.

The city "has no knowledge of the status of that prosecution," Ludwig wrote.

Meanwhile, Perryville residents are on the brink of deciding how their next chief will be hired.

Because Perryville is organized as a fourth-class city, residents must elect a city marshal to serve as chief unless voters choose to convert the chief's role to an appointed position.

On Aug. 20, the board unanimously approved an ordinance providing for a ballot measure allowing the city to appoint its next chief with input from a five-member citizens' committee.

Tarrillion previously had declined to speak publicly about the circumstances surrounding his resignation, citing legal concerns, but on Tuesday, the Perryville Republic-Monitor published a long letter to the editor in which Tarrillion urged voters to reject the proposed change.

In the letter, Tarrillion said he consistently received positive feedback from city leaders when he was chief and implied the allegations against him were politically motivated.

He said city leaders wanted to make the chief an appointed position for several years -- a move he opposed -- and suggested he had been railroaded out of office.

"The city attorney gave several press releases and made several statements that I would resign or be impeached," Tarrillion wrote. "I think it was pretty clear where things were headed by his statements."

Tarrillion was unavailable for comment Thursday but said in an email message that he would like to discuss the letter next week.

Perryville voters will decide on the ballot measure Nov. 5.


Pertinent address:

Perryville, MO

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