WELLSVILLE - The village of Wellsville may be a step closer to filling the vacancy at the top of its police department following a meeting of the village personnel committee on Wednesday afternoon in council chambers.
A great deal of speculation, some of it highly charged, has surrounded the vacancy created in office of chief of police since the death of Chief Joseph Scarabino on May 8. Councilman Randy Allmon, who chairs the committee, said a resolution must be reached soon so that the village as a whole can move forward. "We need to resolve this, without a doubt," he said.
Mayor Susan Haugh and councilman Tony Cataldo also attended the meeting. After calling to order shortly after 1 p.m., committee members voted to go into executive session, "to discuss the appointment of a public employee," according to Allmon, with Haugh and Cataldo invited to join.
The session lasted approximately one hour, after which the meeting was adjourned with no action taken.
While Allmon did not discuss the specific content of the meeting afterward, he did state that the committee wanted to share its input with Haugh as she decides on an appointment for the new police chief. He said no specific names were mentioned in the executive session. "We're just trying to help her make the decision that's best for the village," Allmon said.
Allmon did reveal that during the session, committee members spoke via conference call with a representative from I/O Solutions of Westchester, Ill., which bills itself as "the preeminent public safety selection consulting firm" on its Web site.
Some village residents, including members of Scarabino's family, have publicly expressed their support for Wellsville Police Lt. Ed Wilson at the previous council meeting on May 20, but also have accused the mayor of having variously harassed Scarabino while he was ill at home. Haugh has flatly denied the assertions, along with claims that she had been planning to replace Scarabino with the village's representative on the Columbiana County Drug Task Force. (It is The Review's policy to not publicly name officers serving with the county DTF.)
Adding to the uneasy atmosphere, council voted at the May 20 meeting to settle a lawsuit filed by Wilson against the village and Haugh, related to an unpaid three-day suspension he received following an incident involving the village DTF officer in January.
According to Allmon, this has combined to create a rift among village residents unlike any he's seen since the 1980s, which he deeply lamented. "It tears me apart to see people divided like this," he said. "We all need to come together." While he acknowledged the seriousness of the situation, Allmon said people should set aside personal allegiances and think about what's best for the village instead.
Another personnel meeting has been scheduled for 2 p.m. Monday, June 2, leading up to a full council meeting the following evening, June 3, at 6 p.m.