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Smithsburg police chief hiring procedures questioned

December 03, 2007|By HEATHER KEELS

SMITHSBURG - As the search for a new Smithsburg police chief winds to a close, at least one Town Council member is calling for greater transparency in the town's hiring process for public officials.

Mayor Mildred "Mickey" Myers said Wednesday she narrowed a list of about nine applicants down to one under the advice of law enforcement professionals.

The town has been without a police chief since Oct. 27, after Michael Potter resigned.

Town council members, who must confirm the appointee, interviewed the finalist Wednesday night, Myers said. But Councilman Jerome Martin said he did not attend the interview.

"I have no intention of participating in that when we have no idea who the other candidates were," said Martin, who said Myers did not consult the council when she placed an ad in the newspaper and, at first, would not even tell the council how many applicants there were.

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The Smithsburg charter says the police chief is to be appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the town council, Myers said.

Other council members declined to comment on the selection process.

Martin said changing times call for more oversight than the charter requires.

When Potter was hired in 2001, then-Mayor Tommy Bowers consulted a review panel that included law enforcement officers and town council members, and the council interviewed two finalists, Martin said.

Then, the town was seeking changes as it sought its fourth chief in about four years, Martin said.

"At that point it became apparent that we could no longer rely on one person to make the decisions, that this had to be a concerted effort with participation from the council, citizens and police from other jurisdictions," Martin said. "That has not happened this time at all."

Myers said the town's charter does not dictate the selection method or who is on the review committee.

"Each mayor probably does it a little differently," she said.

Myers said several applicants were ruled out because they were not available soon enough and others were not qualified. Her choice for the appointee, whom she would not name because he or she has not been confirmed, stood out because of unsolicited, positive recommendations she received on the applicant's behalf, she said.

"I would never appoint someone that I didn't know had the full backing of several police agencies," Myers said.

She said she did not consider consulting the council about any of the other applicants.

"At this point in time, no, for reasons that I can't divulge," she said.

Martin said that was not satisfactory.

"It should be a requirement for a position of this type," he said. "It only serves to protect the interest of the town."

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