By Josh Arntz
The Dickson Herald

Published Nov. 12, 2014

The recently re-elected Burns mayor placed the town’s top law enforcement official on paid leave Thursday.

Mayor Landon Mathis suspended Burns Police Chief Paul McCallister with pay through the end of the month, pending termination.

Mathis relieved McCallister of duty Thursday afternoon. He told The Herald the decision was “just an administrative change.”

“We’re moving in a different direction,” Mathis said.

Mathis made Nathanael Proctor, who works for the McEwen Police Department, the interim Burns police chief on a “voluntary” basis till the Burns Board of Commissioners meets Dec. 1.

The mayor will take applications for police chief and conduct interviews, he noted.

“I think in the long run it’s the right thing to do,” Mathis said. “Sometimes you have to do things you really don’t want to do.”

McCallister said it was a “blessing” to serve the town, and he was “at peace” with Mathis’ decision.

“It has been a blessing for me to be able to serve the citizens of Burns for the last two years,” McCallister told The Herald. “I’m at peace with this decision because I know that I ran that department by the books, protecting the Burns Police Department as well as the citizens of Burns.

“I feel that I’ve truly left the department in a better place than I found it,” he added.

Mathis also fired Steve Greer, town maintenance supervisor, for “insubordination.” He cited ongoing issues with water runoff and drainage problems that have been plaguing a Burns resident since last summer; and Greer failing to respond to text messages requesting he fix a gym window and place Children at Play signs on Loggins Road.

The Board of Commissioners must sign off on Mathis’ actions, however.

According to the town charter, the police chief holds office at the “pleasure” of the board; the board appoints the police chief and “such other officers as in their discretion may be necessary;” and the mayor suggests to the board “the most conducible to the interest” of the town.

Mathis was re-elected as mayor Tuesday last week, along with Commissioners Ed “Shot” Grove, Steven Hayes and Chris Holland. Jerry A. Perella was elected the fourth commissioner, replacing former Commissioner Bill Allen.

Military investigation

A local TV news reporter attempted to link McCallister’s termination with a sexual assault allegation reported during his time in the military.

The Herald filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Tennessee Army National Guard in February 2013 seeking documents related to the sexual assault investigation.

Earlier this year, the National Guard Bureau declined The Herald’s request, citing an “unwarranted invasion” of McCallister and the purported victim’s rights to privacy. The bureau also refused to confirm or deny the existence of any records pertaining to the investigation.

McCallister told The Herald last week that he was cleared of any misconduct. Mathis denied firing McCallister over the reported assault.