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Plans to hire Peninsula police chief curbed again

8/15/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Ariel Hakim

Steps toward hiring a new police chief for Peninsula Village at the Village Council’s Aug. 12 meeting went off course, despite an appointment by Mayor Doug Mayer.

Mayer introduced his chosen candidate, Joseph Varga, at the meeting and told Council members he had completed prehire testing.

However, following a motion from Councilwoman Dee Holody to accept the mayor’s recommendation, Council discussed the matter at length and, ultimately, the motion failed to receive a second and was not put to a vote.

Councilman Doug Anderson said he was part of a committee chosen to oversee the hiring process, but the committee, which also included Council members Brian Schall and Dan Schneider, had been left out of this round of interviews.

He said he didn’t think the Ohio Revised Code or Council rules had been followed in the selection of Mayer’s candidate.

According to Mayer, after a previous round of applicants failed to result in an acceptable candidate, he asked Council if he could conduct interviews, along with Village Solicitor Irv Sugerman and Richfield Village Police Chief Keith Morgan, resulting in the selection of Varga.

“I don’t remember that ever being discussed,” said Anderson.

Varga, a retired Boston Heights police chief, went through three interviews, according to Mayer.

All of the other candidates withdrew their applications in the second interviews, Mayer said.

“We’re expected to take one person’s advice on who to appoint as chief,” said Anderson. “I don’t even know the names [of the other candidates]. We want verification that the other applicants withdrew their applications.”

Schneider made a motion to get all of the applications from the most recent round of applicants for the three-man committee to review, and Council voted unanimously to take that course.

The committee can recommend a candidate, but the mayor has to make the appointment, followed by a vote from Council in order to hire someone, according to Mark Riemer, assistant village solicitor.

The village has been without a full-time chief since Council fired Chief Kevin James McCue in 2009 on a recommendation by former Mayor Richard Fisher. McCue sued the village, and a settlement was filed with the court in September 2011, but not signed by the village until Mayer took office in 2012. Under the settlement agreement, the village will pay McCue $120,000 and fund his pension through June 1, 2014. The village has been seeking a full-time chief since March 2012. A candidate selected in the first search was unable to successfully complete prehire testing.

In other action, Council passed a resolution instructing the mayor to request the village’s acting chief of police ensure contractual obligations with Boston Township are met.

Peninsula’s Police Department provides policing services to Boston Township, but the department is short-staffed, and an extra effort is needed to make sure shifts are covered, according to village officials.

Also at the meeting, village resident Pamela Schneider added her questions about the village’s hiring practices in regards to the zoning inspector position, asking for the résumés of those who applied for the job, along with a job description.

At last month’s Council meeting, Rebecca Garner was recommended by Mayer, and Council voted 5-1 to hire her as zoning inspector. No other applications were received for the position, Mayer said.

In other discussion, village residents Larry Bell and Debora Roznovsky approached Council with an alternative to a much discussed parking pay station in the village.

Also at last month’s meeting, Council voted down a proposal to purchase an electronic pay station.

Bell said as an experiment, they mounted a mahogany box that looks like a birdhouse between two on-street parking spaces in front of 6089 N. Locust St. from July 21 to Aug. 11. The sign on the mahogany box, created to look like a birdhouse, informed people that submitting $2 into the box would equal a vote for voluntary $2 on-street parking. During the three-week experiment, the box took in $21.41 in revenue, which was handed over to Council, along with the birdhouse.

“The honor system does work,” said Bell.

“Voluntary donations show that Peninsula would ask them rather than demand them” to pay for parking, Roznovsky said.

Holody recommended Bell and Roznovsky take the parking proposal to the Planning Commission for review. That body can recommend it to Council, she said.

In other news, the village government’s new website, villageofpeninsula-oh.gov, is live, and information such as Council meeting minutes is being uploaded to the site, said Fiscal Officer John Stiegel.

Also, tickets are available until Aug. 16 to the Akron Zoo for free admission Aug. 18-22 for Peninsula residents with valid Community Day tickets, said Kathy Mariani, representing the zoo. Tickets are available at the Peninsula Library and Peninsula Village Hall. There is a limit of four tickets per household, and parking, which costs $2, is not included.

Council’s next meeting is set for Sept. 9 at 7 p.m. in the second-floor Council room of Peninsula Village Hall, located at the corner of state Route 303 and Akron-Peninsula Road.

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