Chief of police given pay deal

Official has been on administrative leave

details few

March 15, 2002|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Taneytown police Chief Gregory S. Woelfel, a 15-year veteran of the city force who was placed on three weeks of paid administrative leave March 8, has been offered an unspecified "financial package" by Mayor Henry C. Heine Jr.

Heine refused to say yesterday if the package involved a buyout or to give details about why he placed Woelfel on leave.

"He has a financial package to evaluate. We are just in negotiations," said Heine. He said federal law requires him to give Woelfel or anyone older than age 40 a period of 21 days to evaluate an offer.

Town Council members, who have few details of the package, said they would go into a closed meeting at a budget session Monday to demand more information.

"We are all somewhat in the dark, and it is awkward," said Councilman James A. Wieprecht. "People are calling, and I have to tell them I don't know the details. If there is a financial offer, the council has to approve it."

Woelfel remains an employee in the city where he began as a patrol officer in 1987. He was appointed chief of the town's force of eight officers two years ago after the retirement of former Chief Melvin Diggs.

Woelfel could not be reached for comment yesterday, and declined to comment Wednesday on the mayor's decision to place him on leave.

Councilman James McCarron said he knows "there have been some concerns with the current police chief" but refused to elaborate.

A person familiar with the situation who asked not to be identified said, "This is a management issue. I don't think there is any scandal here."

Heine said he had informed all five council members by Saturday of Woelfel's leave.

He plans to make a public statement March 29.

"What the council does not understand is that we are in negotiations on this issue," Heine said. "I am bound legally not to talk about the details. All the council knows is the general category. They certainly should understand that this is a legal issue about an agreement between two parties."

Council members are talking with constituents curious about the situation.

Councilman W. Robert Flickinger, former mayor of the town of about 5,000, said he asked Heine for details after Monday's council session.

"All he would say is that he will tell us on the 29th," Flickinger said. "We would like to know. The mayor did this on his own, and then called us. We tried to speak to him after the council meeting Monday, but all he said is, `I can't tell you.'"

Michelle Ostrander, a Westminster lawyer who is counsel to three Carroll towns but not Taneytown, said the council should be informed of "anything that potentially exposes them to liability."

"If any of my mayors asked me, I would tell them to meet with their councils and give them the details," Ostrander said. "You would certainly want their backup. Anything with potential ramifications for the town as a whole should be discussed with the council."

Lt. Bill Tyler has temporarily taken over Woelfel's duties, but has not been given the title of acting chief, Heine said.

"I am stressing that Chief Woelfel is still a city employee," said Heine.

Yesterday, the Taneytown staff and all police officers deferred comment to Patrick Nield, city manager. Nield said he could not comment on a personnel issue.

A sampling of downtown businesspeople had not heard of the suspension or did not know the cause of it.

Sun staff writers Brenda Buote and Childs Walker contributed to this article.

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