MEIGS — A candidate interviewed last week to be Meigs’ next police chief has been terminated by the city’s police department after a recording surfaced that allegedly shows him using a racial slur.
The recording in question allegedly shows Capt. Donald McNeil, who is African American, engaging in conversation with a resident when he uses the N-word to refer to interim police chief Antonio Mango.
Mango said he became aware of the recording, which was apparently captured by McNeil’s body camera several months ago, sometime last week.
McNeil was terminated Monday morning.
Mayor Cheryl Walters, who was present as a witness for McNeil’s termination, said she has heard the recording but is unsure of the context in which the word was used.
Mango said the recording shows a violation of police department policy and McNeil’s oath of office as well as the foundations of a hostile work environment.
“In law enforcement, there is no room for racial remarks or racist remarks toward each other,” Mango said.
The recording was forwarded to the state Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Council for further review.
Mango said he could not provide further comment on the matter.
McNeil was interviewed by the city council last week to be the city’s next chief of police, and a group of about one dozen of his backers gathered outside the Meigs Community Center to lend their support.
Mango downloaded the footage and brought it to the city council that evening.
Walters said Mango’s demeanor before the council that evening left herself and some of the council members uncomfortable.
At some point while Mango was addressing the council, a council member placed a call to the sheriff’s office asking for them to come and defuse the situation.
According to Walters, Mango then called the sheriff’s office to cancel the call.
“I just don’t think you can cancel your own police call,” Walters said.
The interim chief disputed that description, instead arguing that dispatch contacted him and he told them that there was no threat of imminent violence to diffuse.
“I never canceled the call or anything like that,” Mango said. “I just advised dispatch that there was a Meigs unit on duty and we were present at the municipal building. That was it.”
Walters said the council was in the process of considering a motion to postpone hiring McNeil when Mango arrived, and the vote was eventually canceled when the council dispersed.
“This is a crisis that never needed to happen,” Walters said.
The vote is tentatively scheduled to be taken up again at a special called meeting in consultation with the Thomas County Sheriff’s Office that will only have the single topic on the agenda.
“If a police chief is not voted in, then the process will start all over again,” Walters said.
McNeil previously resigned from the police department in February following the conclusion of an internal investigation which the previous police chief, Darrell Laster, claimed showed that McNeil was clocking into work but not reporting for duty.
City council terminated Laster the following week and McNeil was reinstated.
A POST Council investigation into the alleged misconduct was later dismissed due to a lack of evidence.