Posted in the Strongsville Forum
I just saw the first print advertisement in support of Issue 131. On the surface, this may seem to be just a little paperwork issue, or tying up loose ends. However, nothing could be further from the truth. This charter amendment, if approved, would remove the chiefs of both police and fire from civil service, and allow the mayor to appoint a person of his choosing. From the June 27th edition of the Strongsville Post:
"A second proposed amendment would broaden the pool in which the mayor and council can choose a fire or police chief.
(Mike) Gallagher explained that currently that position must be filled from an existing pool of employees. "This allows the mayor to pick a chief out of a national pool, because now we are limited to the existing forces. This broadens our ability", he said.
Although the mayor appoints a chief, city council must confirm that appointment.
(law director Ken) Kraus explained that this change enables the administration to bring in the best candidates.
"It affords more flexibility and there are strict and detailed guidelines that could help us find the best candidates possible", Kraus said. "We have set the bar very high to bring in the best talent possible"
Gallagher said the charter amendment was proposed several years ago by the review committee, but was turned down to go to ballot. The city council, however, decided to put it back on the ballot for consideration."
The ballot language reads, in part:“The fire/police chief shall hold office at the pleasure of the mayor”. In other words, if a police or fire chief does not do exactly what the mayor desires, he/she may be terminated without just cause, and without any recourse.
On the surface, this may appear to be a step forward for a city like Strongsville. If, operative word being “IF”, the administration actually conducted a nationwide search for the most qualified candidate(s), and hired such a person, this would probably be a step forward. However, it’s highly unlikely that is the true intention in this case.
Consider: Both the current police chief (Charles Goss) and the current fire chief (Robert Moody) are both going to have to retire midway through 2011, thanks in part to their participation in the DROP (Deferred Retirement Option Program). The DROP was instituted at the state level a number of years ago and allows members of the safety forces to “retire”, effectively freezing a pension while continuing to work. Meanwhile, they continue to collect paychecks from the city, without any further monies going into the pension system, instead going into an investment account. It’s sort of like “double-dipping”, without actually having to declare retirement. However, the DROP has mandates on when a participant must actually retire, or risk losing the interest earned on payroll deferrals. DROP participants must retire following eight years in the program, and both chiefs will hit that mark in 2011.
That whole situation being what it is, there is an underlying belief among the safety forces that this Issue 131 is just a Perciak ploy to allow both chiefs to retire, then after conducting a “nationwide search”, magically be chosen by the mayor as the best possible candidate to become the new chiefs of their respective departments. In other words, retire and rehire.
Under either scenario, whether the present chiefs are rehired, or out of town talent is brought in, the person in charge of both the police and fire departments will be completely beholden to the mayor and risk termination if they do any independent thinking. The present system of testing through civil service for these positions may not be perfect, but the process has been improved in recent years to include added emphasis on education, as well as a more objective evaluation of experience and other factors. There is really no reason to change the present system, unless the voters truly want to give Mayor Perciak, or any future mayors, even more of a monopoly on the operation of Strongsville’s safety forces.
Vote “NO” on Issue 131
this just sounds like another example of the Strongsville administration's continued movement towards a dictatorship, and I'm shocked LOL
I was reminded over the weekend of a perfect example, that occurred locally, of
what can happen when a fire chief is a political appointee, and dares to go
against the desires of his mayor. The Shaker Heights fire chief was fired in
July of 2009 for challenging the mayor's demand for budget cuts. From the PD
article of July 7, 2009:
"(Mayor Earl) Leiken said he did not want to cut firefighters because the city
had laid off four this year. The mayor said he wanted Barnes to trim management
"We had prolonged discussions, but in the end, he refused to come up with
anything," said Leiken. "We need a chief who can be flexible enough and creative
enough to find the best plan."
(Chief Donald) Barnes declined to comment Tuesday, referring all calls to his
lawyer, Joseph Diemert. Barnes said in a letter to the mayor last month that
cuts would damage the department and the protection it provides residents.
"I just can't professionally or morally do what you have instructed without
jeopardizing the health, safety and welfare of our residents and our
firefighters," he wrote."
The full PD article:
This is what can happen when a police or fire chief is beholden to a mayor, not
Haven't we seen enough of politicians handing jobs to their unqualified friends? Who does the mayor believe can do a better job of protecting the city and its citizens, someone from the outside he can appoint or someone who has worked and maybe even lived in the city for more than 20 years? Personally I would sleep better at night knowing we have qualified people in these very important positions.
hmmm, i think the mayor has a vote yes for 131 sign in his yard, i really have to read this carefully now if the above blog is right, i do not believe mayor perciak would do this just for power, we all need to really read the issue carefully
Well of course he has a sign in his yard supporting this issue. Wouldn't you if you wanted to be able to pick and choose who you wanted to work with instead of having a system of checks and balances to be absolutely sure the right people with the right qualifications are in these most important positions? I am not implying the mayor is incompetent in picking a person to fill these roles, but the current system of a internal civil service test has been used for decades, why the sudden change? Again, who would be more qualified - a random pick by the mayor or someone who has worked and maybe lived in this city for over 20 years and knows the day to day operations of the department and city they are overseeing? I believe the mayor has done a wonderful job for this city, but this issue completely changes how both the police and fire departments are run. If you are satisfied with the services these departments have been providing the residents of strongsville please VOTE NO ON ISSUE 131!!
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