|North Baltimore dwells on police officer's behavior|
|Written by By PETER KUEBECK Sentinel Staff Writer|
|Wednesday, 18 September 2013 07:12|
NORTH BALTIMORE — Issues raised over the reprimand of a village police officer aren’t likely to die down anytime soon.
The matter received a lengthy airing during Tuesday night’s village council meeting, with voices raised between Councilman Aaron Patterson and Police Chief Allan Baer.
The problems stem from a letter of reprimand given to North Baltimore police officer Robert Fitzgerald earlier this month after an August incident in which he was accused of excessively screaming at a village woman who left her 2-year-old son in a car outside a grocery store while she was shopping.
Councilwoman Leslee Thompson asked that the largely positive comments regarding Fitzgerald that have appeared on newspaper and TV news websites be placed into his file also.
“I think this deserved to be in his personnel file as much as the reprimand does,” she said.
“That’s an opinion,” said Patterson, who contested whether placing the comments in Fitzgerald’s file followed set procedure.
Baer stated that letters of support and public comments are frequently put into officers’ files.
“Not only bad things need to go into an officer’s file,” he said.
This prompted an exchange of words between Patterson and Baer over the procedural appropriateness of putting the comments in Fitzgerald’s file, with Patterson later saying “You guys do what you want. I disagree with it,” and adding that Fitzgerald had been “out of control” at the time of the incident.
The argument became more heated as Patterson and Baer engaged in a further exchange, with Patterson making a statement about allegations of “immorality” against the department.
Baer expressed displeasure that Patterson would air such accusations in a public meeting, and stated that he also had received a series “of complaints about you, councilman.”
“Don’t start throwing dirt,” reacted Patterson, who subsequently said to Mayor Mike Julien, “Get control of this meeting, Mr. Mayor.”
A meeting to discuss police matters is to be scheduled.
In a related matter, some discussion in the community has led to concerns that the police department might be disbanded, with the Wood County Sheriff’s Office taking over law enforcement in the community.
Such talk prompted resident Maynard Tipp to submit two hand-written petitions to Julien at the start of the meeting in favor of retaining the police.
“I think that we should keep the police department. They do a damn good job,” he said.
“I think we don’t want no sheriff in town,” he added, later saying “like I say, (the police are) always doing their job every time I see them.”
In an interview after the meeting, Julien indicated that the dissolution of the police department, which prompted Tipp’s petition, had not been seriously discussed.
“It was just a discussion that was raised about what options exist for our police department,” he said.
Another prominent issue in the village – that of Administrator Kathy Healy, who was put on paid leave earlier this month – was not formally discussed Tuesday night.
Healy, who has been with the village since 2007, was put on paid leave Sept. 5, for undisclosed reasons. Julien had previously indicated he put Healy on leave due to procedures required by the village’s policy manual.
Council, which last met Sept. 3, was not required to vote on the action.
After the meeting, Julien said that there was no additional information that he could supply, and that the village is waiting to hear back from the Wood County Prosecutor’s Office regarding the issue.
In other business, council:
• Approved a new design for the North Baltimore welcome sign, proposed by A. J. Hotaling as his Eagle Scout project. While the village will seek alternate funding, it committed to underwrite the project up to $5,000.
• Approved repairs for the open T-ball shelter, to be done by Rodney Krebbs, at a cost not to exceed $1,206.
• Passed as an emergency measure an ordinance authorizing the certification of village citizens’ delinquent utility accounts as special tax assessments to the Wood County Auditor.
• Gave a first reading to an ordinance authorizing an agreement with the Auditor of State’s Office over foreclosed property.
• Heard that a resident has asserted that city ordinance conflicts with state laws regarding his inability to shoot firearms into the local reservoir. Village Solicitor Chet Martin was asked to research the issue.
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