By: James Pruitt
THE VILLAGE REPORTER
The mayor of Edon is conducting an internal investigation of the police department following a vote by the council at its May meeting.
Mayor Duane Thiel read a statement at the beginning of the June 13 meeting before an overflow crowd at village hall. The mayor, the police chief and the Safety Committee are working together to gather information regarding the department.
Council member Andrew Ledyard made the call for the investigation following Chief Tom Szymczak’s request to hire two part-time officers to replace two who were leaving for higher-paying jobs elsewhere.
At the time, the council only approved the hiring of one person.
In Thiel’s statement, the mayor stated the concerns raised by three council members who serve on the safety committee regarding departmental policies and procedures, the scheduling of personnel, use of vehicles, budgetary issues and the lack of communication between the council and the department.
Thiel stated he discussed the process for the investigation with the village solicitor and the council president pro-tem.
Thiel emphasized no one is alleging or accusing anyone in the department of any criminal wrongdoing.
The chief has been responding to a list of questions from the committee and said he needs to do a better job of communicating.
During the meeting, Thiel again made a recommendation to hire the applicant council rejected May 24. Thiel had met with the person and the chief and learned why he had been dismissed from his previous post and thought he would make a good addition.
A motion to assent to the mayor’s request died for lack of support.
Hiring two part-time officers would have allowed the chief to work with the new man, John Rathge who just passed his final exam at Northwest State Community College. As it is, the schedule won’t allow that.
The village allows 18 hours a week for part-time officers. New officers start at $11.28 per hour and move up to $12.28 after they complete probation. The chief and another full-time officer work the bulk of the hours.
Several residents spoke during the meeting on the need for a local police department and the good job the chief has been doing. Others spoke of rumors the council wants to get rid of the department and rely solely on the Sheriff’s Office for protection.
Thiel quickly laid those notions to rest.
“The Sheriff’s Department is not an option,” Thiel said. “It has never been brought to the table.”
Szymczak said it has been a challenge keeping a staff as the village is among the lowest paying jobs in the area. When other towns are offering part-timers $15 an hour to start, the problem is exacerbated.
Since the part-time officers have full-time jobs elsewhere, they work only when they say they are available, the chief said.
“It’s hard to keep good staff,” Szymczak said.
Szymczak said his challenge is keeping spending down to remain within the $188,000 budget council has approved. Most of that $143,000 is eaten up by salaries and benefits.
“I am not going out and blowing money,” Szymczak said.
James Pruitt may be reached at