City Meeting Erupts at Decision to Ax Chief
For many residents, increasingly concerned by the circus at City Hall, the events at the meeting of Monday 12th May were the final straw. Following the leaked announcement on WKOK the previous Friday of Chief Mazzeo’s demotion, there had been a widespread feeling of despair and confusion. This mood however, turned very quickly to one of anger when it became apparent that the decision on his demotion was arbitrary and capricious, was not supported by any evidence of wrong-doing, and was not part of any rational plan from the city administration to enhance the performance of our police department.
Once again Persing has betrayed our city and his oath of office. It has become painfully obvious that the defense and protection of our citizens and the safeguarding of their constitutional rights is something which is not deemed worthy of his consideration.
Calls for his recall are today reverberating around Sunbury.
Persing faced obvious hostility from a large turnout of Mazzeo supporters, including within their ranks some very influential members of our community.
Henry Truslow, Chairman Emeritus of Sunbury Silk Mills, described how Steve and Carole Mazzeo had arrived in Sunbury and very quickly became involved in every single community activity & organization which we have. They are among the most respected and well-known members of this community. He informed Persing that it behooved no one that he could mumble through his statement concerning Mazzeo’s release as quickly as he did.
He continued, saying that the final statement paragraph had dealt with contractual issues. The Chief of Police was not involved in negotiating the police contract. The Chief of Police had little or no input over the police budget. The issues raised – overtime, single man shifts, shortages, lack of money, had nothing to do with him. The Chief was doing his job! Only a matter of 2 weeks previously, the chief had met with the mayor and was told his position was secure and that Persing had “no problems” with him. If he did he would let him (Mazzeo) know.
The Chief of Police, in Mr. Truslow’s opinion, was getting short shrift from the Mayor. The audience loudly acclaimed their agreement.
Despite being asked repeatedly to provide justification for his decision by members of the audience, Persing stonewalled them, using “personnel issues” as a convenient excuse behind which to hide its shallowness. He did admit, however, that it was he who made the decision and not anyone else. There was loud applause when he was informed by one audience member that he could not use Chief Mazzeo as a scapegoat for his own shortcomings.
We counted a substantial contingent present from the police department, including at least three in uniform. It seems that overtime was no problem that night. This also meant that there was nobody out patrolling our city at a time when there was a major manhunt taking place for an escaped and dangerous rapist. For weeks preceding the meeting, there had only been one officer on duty overnight because of Persing’s budget constraints.
Persing Never More Unpopular
Since the meeting there has been an outcry against Persing the likes of which he has never before experienced, and from many who would formerly have regarded themselves as his supporters. He has never been more unpopular. Although Persing was prepared to accept full responsibility for the flawed decision, he is believed to have been strongly influenced by others within his administration.
To have removed from his post, in the way in which he did, a hugely popular Chief of Police, a man who has dedicated his time since moving here from Easton to the betterment of our city, putting in countless hours of unpaid overtime in an attempt to compensate for the worst of Persing’s police budget cuts, and who is an active member of many local voluntary organizations including the Rotary Club, Sunbury Revitalization, River Festival, New Year’s Eve Committee, and a member of several fire companies, is proving to have been a major political stumble.
Steve Mazzeo is highly qualified (college degree) with many years experience, and a skilled negotiator and administrator, and someone who could have turned his department into a model to be envied throughout the state, if only Persing had given him the necessary tools and allowed him to get on with his job, rather than indulging in constant interference and obstruction over matters about which he knows little.
If the City is short of money, largely due to the high cost of the Craigs List Killer investigation, why is it only the police budget which is being squeezed? Due to financial mismanagement over the years, they have no funds in reserve. Why then are other departmental budgets not being reduced to help – Jim Eister has control over almost three quarters of a million dollars! – no sign of any of this being taken from him.
Is it more important to cut the grass on Persing’s pampered ball fields than to insure the safety of our citizens? What about the money they are borrowing to pay for the new outer wall – reputed to be $250,000? This could have gone a long way to help fund the police department.
Time to Take Back Our City and Recall Persing
Throughout the city, people are united in a desire for change. The events of this past week have dominated conversation. We have been approached by an influential group of local citizens – people from all walks of life who desperately want to take back our city and restore democracy by recalling Persing. We are throwing our full weight behind the campaign. They expect to have recall petitions circulating soon.
Just over 300 valid signatures, or 25% of those who voted in November, will be sufficient to present the demand to the Board of Elections. The election thereafter will afford to all citizens the opportunity to take out their pitchforks and light their torches, and then march on the castle at 225 Market Street to evict the monster who lurks within. It really is time to “take out the garbage”.