The Decherd Board of Mayor and Aldermen will hold a special meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday to discuss whether to fire Police Chief Ross Peterson following an incident where an off-duty officer was charged with aggravated assault in a road-rage case in Murfreesboro.
City Administrator Rex Clark confirmed the meeting is scheduled but said early Monday afternoon that the final agenda had not been set. He added that the meeting would involve “discussing current events.”
However, Nashville’s News Channel 5 reported that the subject will be about whether to fire Peterson.
Vice Mayor Richard Gulley told News Channel 5 the board will be meeting to “debate the future employment of safety director Ross Peterson and what actions, if any, will or should be taken.”
The meeting has been listed on the city’s Facebook page and website.
Gulley told News Channel 5 the discussion will be public and not happen during a closed executive session.
Peterson has been under scrutiny for how Police Officer Mathew Ward was hired without the staff going through a detailed background check into his employment history.
Ward, 31, of Cason Lane in Murfreesboro, was charged after an investigation of a June 13 road-rage case starting on Interstate 24, according to Patrol Cpl. William Travis, who was the arresting officer.
Clark had confirmed Ward was immediately suspended from his duties without pay, and Ward subsequently resigned.
The investigation showed Ward observed Ilya Kovalchuk from the city of Franklin speeding on I-24.
The officer displayed his Decherd Police badge and signaled for Kovalchuk to slow down, Travis reported. They exchanged words.
Ward pursued Kovalchuk to Medical Center Parkway at Silohill Lane where both men exited their vehicles.
“Ward drew his Decherd-issued handgun and pointed it at Mr. Kovalchuk while ordering him to lay on the ground,” Travis reported.
Travis and Detective Joe Duncan investigated the case, resulting in Ward’s arrest.
Ward was booked into the Rutherford County Adult Detention Center and released on a $5,000 bond. A hearing is set for Oct. 27 in General Sessions Court.
Kovalchuk recently told the Decherd Board of Mayor and Aldermen that he questions how Ward was allowed to be on the Decherd police force, and his actions clearly indicate he was unfit to be a police officer.
Questions were brought up about how Ward was hired in the first place.
Kovalchuk then questioned what kind of background checks had been done that might indicate Ward could have problems.
Peterson was quoted in a Nashville News Channel 5 interview as saying the staff was allowed to ask only two questions and had no further go-ahead to extend beyond that.
“There was no form filled out where we get it notarized or we could ask questions, anything different from ‘did you work here and would you rehire that person,’ and since he’s not actually got an extensive work history in law enforcement, we didn’t do that,” Peterson said. “That’s my answer.”
However, Ward did sign the release-from-liability form that contradicts Peterson’s statement.
The form that would have been submitted to previous employers says:
“I respectfully request and authorize you to furnish the Decherd Police Department with any and all information that you have concerning me, my employment record, school and academic record (to include disciplinary action), reputation, financial and credit status, criminal record, and my traffic record.
“Such information will include, but not limited to, hospital, medical, physical, mental, military, police and court records, police reports, background investigative material and reports.
“This information is to assist the Decherd Police Department in determining my qualifications and fitness for the position I am seeking. I hereby release you, your organization, or others from any liability or damage which may result from furnishing the information requested.”
The form is signed by Mathew Drake Ward and notarized by Constance King.