What started as a flap over the news that the police chief is job shopping has now become a full blown politcal fiasco. For the sake of public safety and confidence, its got to stop. But it wont be easy.
Heres the problem. Thus far, almost everyones position is suspect. The chief says hes job shopping because the mayor is attacking his contract behind closed doors. But if the chief really has a legal contract, one which gives him what he says he wants, namely life tenure, then why should even such feeble efforts make him nervous? He may be using his tenured Haverhill job to negotiate for a better job somewhere else.
The mayor and Councilor Mitchitson do not want an open review of the chiefs contract because they seem to fear that this will frighten him away. He does seem popular. The mayor claims he wants the chief to stay, but admits hes reviewed the contract. Councilors Hall, Hart and Fossarelli smell a rat and say that if the chief leaves, the mayors to blame. The mayor says theyre playing politics, but they clearly see that hes talking out of both sides of his mouth.
So, we have a
chief whos either insecure or secretly ambitious
and who is publicly criticizing his boss, the mayor. We
have a mayor who wants to gain authority over a tenured
employee, but doesnt want to take political heat
for doing it. And we have councillors circling around the
issue waiting for the fall-out. Its classic
politics, the rhetoric is sharp but the real issue
remains hidden. If it continues, public safety will
Theres one way of finding out. Some weeks ago Councilor Ryan called for a full-scale and open review of the chiefs contract by the City Council itself. The council refused, saying it is the mayors job, not theirs. But we really dont know what the mayors up to, and the Council clearly has the power to call for an independent legal opinion on a contract it seems obligated to fund for ten years.
Billy Ryans challenge is on target. In fact, its the only way to move beyond this fiasco.It will force the mayor to be clear as to what, if any, concerns he has. It will give councilors an opportunity to question lawyers and to ask the chief what his intentions really are. And it will give the public a chance to weigh in. Most of all, it will clear the air! Thats the only remedy to our now divided house.
the City Council should undertake a thorough and
independent legal review of the chiefs contract.
The mayor should fund it. And the chief should welcome
it! Whatever the outcome, a clarified contract will
finally be in place, a contract that gives appropriate
job security to the chief, proportionate supervisory
authority to the mayor, and full assurance to the public
that the chief is fully committed to our city.
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|Prior Columns by Jim Rurak|