Search for new chief is under way

Published 12:26 pm Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Resident says she pursuing recall of Mayor Templeton

CHESAPEAKE — While the issue of finding a new chief for Chesapeake’s police department did not come up in business at Monday’s council meeting, Mayor Tommy Templeton says the search is under way.

Interim chief Randy Lewis presented his resignation to the mayor at a special meeting of council two weeks ago, citing disagreements with Templeton.

Since then, Randy Thompson, the department’s assistant chief, has been serving as acting chief, Templeton said.

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Thompson was offered the position of interim chief, but declined it last week, citing time commitments at other jobs.

Templeton said, in an interview following the meeting,  that the difference in interim and acting chief was “basically semantics,” but said Thompson would not be taking a permanent position.

“He’s still doing the job for now,” Templeton said.

The mayor said the village has been contacted by people interested in the chief’s position.

“We’re going to take our time to do it right,” he said. “As long as Randy’s happy as acting chief, we’ll continue.”

Lewis assumed the position as chief following the resignation of Lenny Abrams from the position in September 2016. Abrams, who also cited disagreements with Templeton, had served several months, after his predecessor, Dennis Gibson, was removed by council at the request of Templeton.

Meanwhile, a Chesapeake resident said she is collecting signatures to bring about a recall election on the mayor.

Judy Kinney, who said she is retired after 28 years working as an attorney, said she started circulating petitions two weeks ago.

She said she needs 57 signatures to bring about a recall and has collected 21 so far.

“I will not stop until I get them,” she said in an interview at her home following the council meeting. “I’ve walked and talked and said to people ‘This is what is going on’ and they don’t have a problem with (a recall.)”

Kinney, a two-year resident of the village, said if a recall were to occur, she would run as a candidate for mayor.

She said Lewis’ resignation motivated her to begin the effort.

“Since we lost him, we lost the best,” she said. “Since he was chief, he really brought the community up.”

She took issue with Templeton producing a badge and acting as an officer, one of the points of disagreement cited by Abrams and Lewis in their resignation letters.

“He’s out there giving tickets in his blue jeans,” Kinney said. “Everything’s about tickets with him.”

Following Abrams’ resignation, Templeton produced an opinion letter from the village solicitor, Casey Baker, which stated he has the power to detain individuals, make arrests and act as a peace officer.

Kinney said she disagreed with the findings of Baker’s letter, and said the mayor has not had police training. She said his acting in the position amounted to “wearing a fake badge.”

“He does not have the right,” she said. “He’s not a police officer and he never went a police academy.”

She said, if elected, she would seek to bring Lewis back to the position.

“I would do it in a heartbeat,” she said. “He is a good officer and I’ve seen him at work.”

She said she plans to submit the signatures to a meeting of council.

“And, if they reject them, I’ll take them straight to Ironton,” she said.

Templeton said he had “no comment” on the recall effort, but said he was not surprised. He confirmed a similar one was undertaken following Abrams’ resignation, but failed to garner enough signatures.

The mayor, who has said he has done nothing wrong, said there were no plans to change his approach to the police department. He dismissed the points of Lewis’ letter as “something that came from a disgruntled employee.”

While the issue of the police chief position remains prominent in the village, Monday’s council meeting focused on other business.

The council voted 6-0 to accept the revised fine schedule for the village.

Following that vote, the council also moved unanimously to accept a proposal from council member Paul Hart to reword the village’s regarding DUI arrests.

“We’re not getting fine money from DUIs,” Hart said. “So we’re rewording things to comply with other villages.”

A fine of $895 would be set for a DUI. The resolution focused on “physical control” of a vehicle.

Thompson, who was present at the meeting, said this would allow officers to make an arrest if they found someone intoxicated in a parked vehicle who they suspected had been driving.

Templeton said he would run the matter by Baker for approval. Hart suggested the council vote on the issue, and if the solicitor took issue, changes could be made.

The replacement of the roof for the Chesapeake-Union Volunteer Fire Department was again a topic at this month’s meeting.

Hart said trusses will have to be ordered and the fire department will need to decide on a color. Templeton said the Union Township trustees have agreed to pay for half of the $11,000 cost, though he said this will not include gutter work.

“We may have to go back to the well on that,” he said.

Templeton asked fire chief Frank Meehling II if the department had decided on a color, to which he replied they were leaning toward red and grey.

In other business, the council:

• Voted to give Thompson the pay rate of interim chief while he is serving as acting chief

• Met in executive session to discuss a personnel matter, with no action taken

• Voted to modify a policy passed last month, which required police officers to remain within the village while on duty. The council voted 6-0 for the revision, which states officers are allowed to leave to purchase gas or food, when serving warrants or in “life or death” matters or issues where an officer needs assistance.

• Discussed the issue of the police levy and said they agreed with the wording as it was submitted to the board of elections.

• Heard from resident Mona Hart, of the former Operation TLC, who complimented the village on maintaining flowers planted by the group near village hall. The group disbanded earlier this year, following the death of founder Billy Smith. Templeton said that he and council member Bill Duncan have been watering the plants near village hall and flowers have been donated to the village by Hatcher’s Greenhouse.