2008-09-13 / News

Kirkersville names Petrey police chief

By Scott Rawdon

KIRKERSVILLE - Kirkersville hired a new part-time police chief, and he's keeping his night job. The village hired James Petrey Sept. 3, who is also a part-time night shift officer for the Village of Buckeye Lake. Wednesday night's Kirkersville Village Council meeting was confusing by anyone's standards. Shortly ahead of being hired, council member Bennie Evans made a motion stating that Petrey could become chief if he agreed to leave the Buckeye Lake position. Evans said Kirkersville and Buckeye Lake are "adjoining villages" and Evans, formerly the mayor of Kirkersville, said he never knew of a time when a Kirkersville officer held two law enforcement positions in the same county. He asked Petrey if he would be willing to leave the Buckeye Lake department.

Petrey reluctantly said he'd consider it. Evans also asked Mayor Terry Ashcraft if a council search committee reviewed applications, challenging Ashcraft's assertion that choosing a new police chief is the mayor's decision. Evans asked Petrey if he would spend most of his time personally patrolling the streets. Petrey said most of the time he would be on patrol.

"You know about the evidence problem we have," said Ashcraft. He said Petrey would need to help the village organize its evidence room. Ashcraft added that he didn't believe the village had the authority to tell Petrey to quit his night job.

Council member Brian Denton, who works for the Ohio Division of Liquor Control, didn't see a problem with Petrey keeping his Buckeye Lake position. He said if a Kirkersville liquor control issue is presented to council, he simply abstains from vote or comment.

But, when Evans' motion the hire Petrey only if he quits his Buckeye Lake position was brought to a vote, council unanimously approved it.

Evans made a motion giving Petrey 24 hours to decide if he's willing to leave the Buckeye Lake department.

"That's a pretty tough decision," replied Petrey, adding he's the Buckeye Lake department's firearms training officer and some officers are in the process of various certifications. He said he's worked for Buckeye Lake for six years and he's been treated well.

Council member Erika Mudd suggested giving Petrey 30 days to decide so he could complete the training.

Council member Gary Raines asked if there was a "real rule" preventing Petrey from keeping his Buckeye Lake position.

"What's the conflict?" asked council member Rosemary Frischen.

"Where's his loyalty?" asked Evans. "That's just my thought."

Ashcraft said former Police Chief Robert Chamberlain had flexible hours and there was never a problem.

"I'm talking about the position, not the person," said Evans.

Council members discussed revising Evans' motion so Petrey could keep his Buckeye Lake position. But, they couldn't revise it until they voted on the motion to give Petrey 24 hours to decide whether to leave Buckeye Lake. Mudd and Raines voted against the motion, Frischen abstained, and Evans, Denton, and council member Jaime Cloud voted in favor. Since an abstaining vote is counted with the majority, the motion passed.

However, Mudd asked for an explanation of the procedure for revising the original motion at that point, and made a new motion to remove completely the requirement for Petrey to quit his Buckeye Lake position. Mudd, Raines, and Frischen voted in favor of the new motion, and Denton, Evans, and Cloud voted against it.

Ironically, the mayor breaks a tie vote so the decision was back to Ashcraft. He said Petrey could be Kirkersville's police chief and keep his Buckeye Lake position.

Ashcraft said Tuesday that Petrey's recent reprimand from the Buckeye Lake department wasn't enough to change his decision to hire him. Petrey was reprimanded in July for leaving his post in a Buckeye Lake cruiser while on duty. He drove to Grove City to confront a person who owed him money, said Ashcraft.

While Ashcraft doesn't condone the behavior, he said Petrey turned himself in and accepted the consequences of his actions. If Petrey had not turned himself in, no one would've known about the incident. "That was the only thing he had on his record," said Ashcraft. He said he talked to Buckeye Lake Police Chief Ron Small who said otherwise Petrey is a good officer. Ashcraft believes the attention the incident is receiving in some local media is unwarranted.

Sept. 3, Ashcraft announced that former Acting Police Chief Chris Martin resigned from the Kirkersville Police Department effective Aug. 22. Martin served as acting chief since Chamberlain resigned May 14.

In other council news:

• Ashcraft said he and Petrey would inventory the village's evidence room to account for all the money and items that are supposed to be there. He said he would have more information about the situation at the next council meeting.

• Ashcraft said the Licking County Health Department is running tests on a Blue Jay discovered within the village that may be carrying the West Nile virus.

• A three-mill operating levy will appear on the March ballot, not the November ballot. Evans said council suspended the required three reading rule to assure that the levy's ordinance was passed in time for it be filed with the Licking County Board of Elections and placed on the November ballot. Unfortunately, council waived the three reading rule with only four members of council present; according to Ohio law, five members of a sixmember council must agree to waive the three reading rule.

This will be the fourth time the issue will be placed before voters. There's no increase in millage over the current levy, which expires this year, said Ashcraft previously. If the levy fails a fourth time, the mayor said the village would be forced to make cuts. He wasn't specific.

Former council member Debbie Seymour, present at the Sept. 3 meeting, asked why Village Solicitor Deb Kenney didn't inform council of the improper procedure. Evans said the solicitor is present to answer questions, not to interject if council makes a mistake. Seymour said the solicitor should know the rules and applauded Mudd for asking questions when she wasn't clear on a procedure. Seymour also wondered why some council members voted to require Petrey to give up his Buckeye Lake position when it appeared as though those council members didn't object to him retaining his position.

"Use your own thoughts," said Seymour.

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