Jolley focus of Aberdeen political wars Police chief's woes leave town divided

November 12, 1993|By Bruce Reid | Bruce Reid,Staff Writer

Jack Jolley's friends in Aberdeen say the police chief has been pummeled by trumped-up allegations of mismanagement of public money, theft of evidence, illegal voiding of tickets and sexual harassment.

The chief's critics say he has lost the ability to lead his department and has become an embarrassment to a town of 13,000 striving for an identity other than just the place outside the gates of the Army's huge Aberdeen Proving Ground.

Chief Jolley's troubles are the focus of an escalating power struggle between the City Council and a mayor viewed by critics as an upstart.

The combatants look like a family having a knock-down, drag-out with all the windows open. And no one sees an end to it.

John R. "Jack" Jolley, bruised and bloodied, says he is hunkering down for the long fight.

His adversary, Mayor Ruth Elliott, says she is equally determined to fight against a "government for the few."

Chief Jolley, a well-educated son of a truck driver who owned the only gas station in Oil City, Pa., says he and his family have been hung out to dry by a mayor with an ax to grind.

The chief, who has held his post since July 1989, says he hasn't done anything worthy of punishment.

The latest charges came from the chief's former secretary, Vickie L. Horne, who accused him of subjecting her to lewd and suggestive comments during the four years she worked for him. She is seeking $3 million in a suit.

The chief, a well-spoken, stout man with a master's degree in criminology from Kansas State University, angrily denies the harassment allegations. He says he has spent years teaching "10,000 women" how to fend off unwanted advances in rape-prevention classes.

The chief, a former head of military police at the proving ground and a former security supervisor for Baltimore Gas and Electric Co., acknowledges having thought many times of throwing in the towel. But the father of three grown children, who spent 20 years in the Army and served with the 1st Infantry in Vietnam, says he remembers his father as a "don't-give-up kind of guy."

He vows to strike back at the news media, the mayor, the state prosecutor and others who, he says, have brought about the "ruthless destruction of my reputation."

His supporters, including City Council President Ronald Kupferman, say the chief is the first one to tell you he has made mistakes. But Mr. Kupferman adds that the chief has done nothing to deserve being fired, something Mayor Elliott has tried to do since last spring.

Chief Jolley and his supporters say Mayor Elliott is acting on a 13-year-old grudge. They say her brother-in-law, former Police Chief Arthur "Whitey" Elliott, was pushed out of office in 1981 after being accused of mismanagement and that the mayor wants to get even.

"They have to come up with something," Mrs. Elliott counters. "For them to even bring up my brother-in-law is so small."

The mayor and her supporters say the chief and the "good old boys" protecting him are fostering a "government for the few" with virtually no accountability to the public.

She says she has been forced to seek help from Maryland's state prosecutor, Stephen Montanarelli, because the council refused to act on the allegations against the chief, who is paid nearly $49,000 a year.

The council "said I had nothing, that I should just forget it," says Mrs. Elliott, who fellow council members call a "nonconformist."

One of the chief's most outspoken detractors, H. Edward Andrews III, contends that the chief got his job by "playing golf with the right people."

Mr. Andrews, a former Washington police officer and the attorney for the Aberdeen police union, said, "He has done nothing for law enforcement in Aberdeen."

Officers say that since last year, when they demanded better equipment and training and then faced a brutality investigation instigated by the chief, tension has overshadowed the daily workings of the department. The investigation focused on a prisoner's claim that he had been improperly sprayed with Mace by an officer. But outside investigators, including the FBI, found no evidence of brutality.

The police union had threatened to file suit against the city for threatening officers with disciplinary action if they spoke publicly about their concerns. Last week, attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union and the city reached an agreement that allows officers to speak about matters of "public concern."

Chief Jolley has been the target of two investigations by the state prosecutor, who concluded over the summer that the chief had mismanaged a discretionary fund under his control and had illegally voided dozens of traffic and parking tickets.

Mr. Montanarelli found "serious gaps in accountability for the discretionary fund" but said he could not "prove with certainty" that the chief benefited personally, so no criminal charges were pursued.

The prosecutor found that nearly $2,500 that had been deposited in the fund could not be accounted for, that the chief made a political contribution with money from the fund and that he used the fund to make payments on his personal credit card balance.

Mr. Montanarelli's second investigation has not been completed. It involves allegations that Chief Jolley assigned Mrs. Horne, who has no police experience, to help investigate a criminal case and that he took for his personal use a pornographic videotape seized as evidence in the case.

There is talk around town that the only way out of this mess may to abolish the 35-officer Police Department and let the county sheriff or state police take over.

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