Can the damage that's been done be repaired?

Gwen Chamberlain

Can the damage that’s been done to relationships in the village government by the heated exchanges over the past week be repaired?

Yes, says Mayor Douglas Marchionda Jr., who angrily responded to a letter presented to him at the Jan. 15 village board meeting by the Police Benevolent Association (PBA) regarding an incident on Dec. 24, 2007.

Marchionda says he knows the relationship between him and the members of the PBA and that between the village board and members of the PBA will mend.

And Michael Donovan, president of the PBA says sworn officers will have no problem providing law enforcement services for the village, “as long as we have the numbers (of officers) to provide 24-hour services.”

The PBA already has a grievance filed against the village related to the village board’s decision to not hire someone to fill the investigator’s position vacated when it appointed Gene Mitchell to the chief’s position last year. Mitchell received a stipend to continue doing investigations in the village, but the board stopped that stipend in December, 2007.

Marchionda is not prepared to speculate on the relationship between himself and Police Chief Gene Mitchell, whom he has accused of insubordination over the way Mitchell handled the Dec. 24 incident (see related article).

Marchionda met with Mitchell, Attorney Ed Brockman and Public Safety Chair Nancy Taylor on Jan. 16 to review a memo outlining new directives for the police chief to follow.

Mitchell, who says he doesn’t know where the working relationships will go from here, says he refused to sign the memo, and depending on how some points are revised by the village attorney, he may choose to have the document reviewed by an attorney before he agrees to the terms.

The memo outlines specific items that Marchionda says have come up since Mitchell has been at the helm of the police department.

Points in the memo include:

• Mayoral oversight of any contact with attorneys other than the District Attorney.

• Notation that all actions by the police department and all its employees are subject to review and change by the mayor.

• Mayoral review of all press releases prior to distribution.

• Notification of the mayor whenever a felony arrest is made, in advance when possible.

• All information, including background checks, in the personnel files of new employees will be provided to the mayor.

• Any police detail outside the normal patrol duties will be approved by the mayor in advance by email.

“There have been no serious problems since I took over,” says Mitchell.

Mitchell has been an employee of the village police department since 1979, and was named to the chief’s position in July 2007 after serving as interim chief following Steve Hill’s retirement.