June 30, 2016

Partly sunny

‘Tough decisions’ for Seville police

SEVILLE — Members of Village Council said they will have to make “tough decisions” about the police department.

Councilman Richard Barbera, chair of the Safety Committee, said Council went into an executive session to discuss personnel issues at 7:30 p.m. Monday and did not adjourn until 1 a.m. Tuesday.

On Wednesday night, Council members alluded to new information that could mean changes for the department during a Safety Committee meeting.

“We didn’t realize how broke (the department) was, and now we’re trying to fix it,” Barbera said. “All I can say is my eyes have been opened and there are a lot more issues going on than I knew.”

Councilman Jim Lovejoy, a member of the Safety Committee, said he has listened to testimony from all of the police officers in the department, and that Council will have to make “tough decisions moving forward.”

“People are saying they don’t feel safe in their own neighborhood. That bothers the hell out of me,” he said.

During the public comment portion of Wednesday’s Safety Committee meeting, two residents who live in the 100 block of Pine Needle Drive said they felt some residents of the village were being given preferential treatment by the police department. The women said a “neighborhood bully” harassed their families and others in the neighborhood for several years but did not face charges because he is personal friends with Police Chief Don Burson.

Burson did not respond to phone calls for comment Thursday.

One of the residents, Phyllis Lepin, 125 Pine Cone Court, said she approached Mayor Carol Carter in late June about the issue. She said she attended Wednesday’s meeting because she felt Carter was being unfairly criticized for attempting to restructure the department.

Tensions erupted Dec. 13 during a Council meeting over an ordinance Carter presented to restructure the police department that would have eliminated a staff sergeant position. At the time it was introduced in July, there were three sergeants to three patrolmen on the department.

Tabled since late July, the ordinance was unanimously rejected Dec. 13 by Council, which met for an executive session, a closed door meeting in which minutes are not taken and information is confidential.

“I just wish we were given information when it was given to the mayor,” Councilwoman Barb Schwartz said Wednesday.

Carter said that Council could have called an executive session at any point.

“If Council really wanted to know what the mayor knew, they have to power to call an executive session, but they
didn’t,” she said. “Now they’ve had three and should all know what the mayor knows and know what to do with the information.”

Councilman Rick Stallard said some of the issues with the department go back “15 or 17 years.”

The Dec. 13 meeting also saw the public departure of Patrolman Jared Prill, which led to the disbanding of the department’s K-9 unit. Council voted Monday to allow Prill to purchase K-9 Sonny for a nominal fee.

Contact Lisa Hlavinka at (330) 721-4048 or lhlavinka@medina-gazette.com.