CLEVELAND – So what really did happened to Police Chief Joseph A. Stehlik’s position within Middlefield Village? Was it a hostile takeover? The plot thickens as time wears on since more fragments of the issue emerge as you read more of the Middlefield Village Council meeting minutes.
There is no publicly documented evidence of any impropriety on the part of Chief Stehlik, and a thorough check of the county court dockets on line shows no pending court cases in local courts where the former police chief was listed as the defendant. There is mention of “pending litigation” in the Council meetings.
The Interim Chief of Police job was accepted by Corporal Ed Samec Jr. shortly after the former Chief Joseph Stehlik was removed from his post at the end of 2009. So Middlefield technically has two police chiefs now, one who is on administrative leave and another who is taking his place until the first chief retires in July of 2011. One of the more disturbing issues is the obvious fact that the new Chief has skipped from being a corporal all the way up to Chief inside the time it takes to break in a new pair of shiny new police chief boots!
At one meeting it was suggested that the village solicit applications for the position of chief but that was shot down. Some residents believe it was because the council and mayor had already decided that the new temporary chief would be just fine as a permanent replacement for the former chief.
The week Police chief Joe Stehlik was suddenly put on administrative leave with no reason given for this decision was a shock to residents who have no clue why this action was taken. On Decmeber 17th council met for their normal meeting and immediately adjourned into an “executive session” for the purposes of “personnel administrative leave” discussion and “personnel compensation” where it was voted and passed that the chief be put on administrative leave.
And then Mayor Poole introduced ordinance 09-161 Authorizing the Mayor to enter into a “Voluntary Administrative Leave and Release Agreement” with Joseph Stehlik, he was let go with a reduced paycheck until 2011. Interestingly Chief Stehlik was not present at this meeting, because he rarely missed a council meeting.
At the very next council meeting on December 31st which was titled a “Special Council” meeting it was learned after another “executive session” that Mayor Poole appointed Ed Samec Jr. as Interim Police Chief pursuant to a psychological examination. This specific item has not been revisited in the meeting minutes to date, yet the new chief has recently had his new salary set at $59,000 per year by an unanimous vote by council.
This move was odd because Ed was not really “next in line” for the position and when council was questioned on this fact many meetings later they claimed that the other officers higher in rank all declined the position. Between the 3rd of December and the 31st, Council and the Mayor already had discussions with the officers in line for the job, but the public was never made aware of this until after it was done.
This whole process reeks of abuse of power with their questionable use of “executive session” It flies in the face of Ohio’s Open Meetings Law! In fact their discussions with the other officers for the Chief job outside of the council meetings creates a problematic situation. They also seem to forget that the “executive sessions” they are using to block the public are supposed to be voted on before they adjourn with a “majority of a quorum of the public body determined by roll call vote” They are not even asking that of the public participants, they are voting on it themselves.
The most up to date meeting minutes on-line are from July 1st 2010, in this meeting it was proposed that council adopt ordinance 10-120 Appointing Ed Samec as Police Chief and 10-121 Establishing the Compensation for Chief. The ordinance 10-120 was tabled by mayor Poole “until a later time” but the compensation 10-121 was passed unanimously for the amount of $59,000 per year to the Chief of Police.
So where does this saga go from here? The people around the Middlefield area are watching what goes on in these council meetings more diligently and this Administrative Leave will be brought up again and again until the public is satisfied that the council has given them the truth.
It seems like there is a lot of information that the council and mayor want to keep from the public. This is not the correct way to manage a community in this day and age! If they have kept this quiet to protect the former Chief or someone who is innocent, then I would admire their integrity, but until we know the truth it is hard to guess their motives.
To learn more about the councils activities please visit the village council website and view their minutes!
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