Wellsville still working to fill chief’s position

WELLSVILLE – The process of selecting a new police chief following the death of Chief Joseph Scarabino last month continues.

Council chambers were again full Tuesday, though the topic of the open position did not come up until the public comment portion of the meeting when Mike Verish of 10th Street asked about the vacancy, inquiring about the process and the time frame involved, and whether the topic would be addressed during the meeting.

After Mayor Susan Haugh explained the appointment process and sought to assure him of working to find the right candidate, Councilman Randy Allmon, chair of the personnel committee, told Verish that action toward those ends would come later during the meeting.

The action would not turn out as Allmon had planned, however.

After returning from a brief executive session for personnel reasons, Allmon introduced a motion to hire the Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police to assist the village in choosing a candidate for the post.

According to its website, the association provides consultation and advisory services, testing of candidates and other resources for municipalities selecting a police chief. Services include drug tests, background checks, interviews, written exams and other procedures.

Allmon said the firm has helped to hire more than 800 police chiefs and lieutenants across the state, without a single lawsuit filed against any municipality after the process. “They are that good at it,” he said.

In addition to establishing their qualifications, Allmon said the village should utilize the association’s services to help quell the contentious debate surrounding the vacancy and remove any accusations of personality or politics interfering with the decision.

Haugh agreed with Allmon’s assertions. “There are a lot of personalities involved in this,” she said. “A lot can happen one way or the other.” She also praised the association, saying it works to “fine-tune” the procedure that the administration wants to be followed, ranging from voice-stress tests to credit checks, or giving extra points for candidates who are existing officers within the department or to military veterans.

Most of Allmon’s colleagues remained unconvinced, however. Only Tony Cataldo provided another “yes” vote to hire the association, with Don Brown, Diane Dinch, Nancy Murray and John Morrow all voting against the measure.

Following the vote, Haugh announced that after reviewing candidates, she would appoint a chief of police, “in the very near future.”

Allmon admitted after the meeting that he was “in shock” by the measure’s defeat, though he did commend council for their professionalism and from keeping the process from getting personal.

“I was just trying to do what was best for the village,” he said.

After the meeting, Dinch said she thinks association’s services are valuable and isn’t against using them in the future. However, she believes the option should have been investigated before the present situation developed, when the issue has already incurred controversy.

Dinch also said she didn’t believe that the costs associated merited hiring the association right now. “In the current situation, I just think we didn’t need to spend that money.”

In other news:

* Councilman Brown announced the dedication of a flagpole in memory of Scarabino will be held at 2 p.m. Thursday in front of the police station. All are invited to attend.

* Council unanimously accepted a pair of applications for new paid call-out firefighters. They are Gregory Beatty and Scott D. Deitch II, both of Wellsville.