Aberdeen's police union calls for Chief Jolley's resignation

July 27, 1993|By Aminah Franklin | Aminah Franklin,Staff Writer

Members of the Aberdeen Police Officers' Union last night called for the resignation of Chief John R. Jolley, saying he has lost the ability to run the department.

"He's got to go," said Sgt. Stephen Smith, a union member who has been with the department nearly 15 years. "He's a detriment to the department and an embarrassment to the city."

The union released the results of a secret ballot taken last week in which 20 of 23 police officers eligible to vote said they had no confidence in the chief; three officers abstained.

In a letter to the City Council, union members challenged an earlier decision not to fire Chief Jolley, who is accused of illegally voiding dozens of tickets and misappropriating money in a discretionary fund.

But minutes before the officers were to read that letter into the record at last night's council meeting, City Administrator Peter Dacey warned them that police policy prohibits public criticism of the agency or remarks that could undermine its effectiveness.

Police officers, including Union President James Osborne, said Mr. Dacey told them that violating the policy would result in departmental action against them.

Mr. Dacey, however, denied having threatened action against the officers, saying he only advised them of potential consequences.

Police officers gave city officials copies of the 3 1/2 -page letter detailing the results of the no-confidence vote and a list of grievances against Chief Jolley -- which they had planned to read into the record last night.

The officers also passed out copies of the letter to residents -- both supporters and detractors of Chief Jolley -- who packed the volatile two-hour council meeting.

After the officers were prevented from addressing the council, a resident volunteered to read their letter into the record, and the -- council recessed to discuss the proposal.

Mayor Ruth Elliott, one of the five city council members, told officers outside the recessed meeting that she was advised by City Attorney Gregory A. Rapisarda that Officer Osborne would face departmental charges if he -- or a civilian resident -- read the union's letter into the record.

In the meeting, Mr. Rapisarda said officers could be charged for giving out copies of the letter because it was addressed to Mrs. Elliott, members of the council and Mr. Dacey -- and therefore is "confidential."

The chief did not show up at the meeting, but his wife Donna

Jolley did attend and spoke in her husband's defense. In addition, the council allowed H. Merritt Harrison, a friend of Chief Jolley's, to read a statement the chief released last Tuesday into the council record.

During the meeting, opponents of Chief Jolley claimed that he is being treated as though he is above the law.

But his supporters -- including his wife-- argued that he merely made a mistake.

"I don't know what kind of punishment you wanted heaped on my husband," Mrs. Jolley told the council, describing him as "an honest, educated gentleman" who has been "humiliated."

City Councilman Charles R. Boutin, who supports Chief Jolley, said he consulted three separate attorneys who said they agreed with the action taken against the chief.

"I'm satisfied that what we did was right," Mr. Boutin said, referring to a July 13 closed meeting, when the council voted 4-1 to thwart a bid by Mayor Elliott to oust the chief.

The council, instead, voted to turn the matter over to Mr. Dacey, who suspended the chief for five days, made him forfeit 10 days' salary and denied him his next scheduled pay raise -- a punishment criticized by the mayor and union officials as "a slap on the wrist."

"Unfortunately the city government is putting their heads in the sand and ignoring the problem," Sergeant Smith said.

Union attorney H. Edward Andrews said, "The morale here is as low as it can possibly go, the officers are totally dejected. We expected the council to act responsibly and ask the chief to resign."

Union members complained yesterday that Chief Jolley has ignored problems in the department for nearly two years, citing, in particular, the neglect of equipment.

For example, they noted the five-year warranties on many bulletproof vests are about to expire, putting them at risk. They also complained that flat tires on patrol cars have been plugged as many as five times, which presents a safety hazard.

A July 2 report by State Prosecutor Stephen Montanarelli alleges that the chief voided dozens of parking and traffic tickets -- including one issued to the wife of the department's mechanic and one to a friend of a member of the department -- in violation of state law and misappropriated money in a discretionary fund under his control.

Mr. Montanarelli also found the chief wrote three checks totaling $150 against the departmental fund to pay personal credit card bills, which Chief Jolley said was reimbursement for a cash loan to another officer.

Over a three-year period ending last January, 20 checks were written against the fund, including one for $100 to pay for tickets to a political fund-raiser for Harford County State's Attorney Joseph I. Cassilly.

An additional $2,438.69 known to have been deposited in the fund cannot be accounted for, according to the report.

Mr. Montanarelli said he decided not to seek criminal charges against Chief Jolley because his investigation did not find that the chief benefited personally from voiding tickets and because he could not "prove with certainty that he [Chief Jolley] converted any of the funds to his personal use."

Chief Jolley has said earlier he believed that voiding the tickets was within his authority and that he never used money from the fund for "any personal gain or profit."

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