By Victor Milani
In October of last year, Northfield Village Police Chief Mark Wentz resigned from his post as chief. At that time, Mayor Jessie Nehez named Lt. Jamie Mackie as the (O.I.C.) Officer in Charge, until a new permanent chief could be named. After five months with Mackie as the O.I.C. , Mayor Nehez decided to go in a different direction, naming Sgt. John Zolgus to replace Mackie as the new O.I.C. This was all occurring while a search for a new chief was being conducted. According to Mayor Nehez, Northfield Village Council wanted his choice to be someone within the current ranks of the Northfield Village Police Department. There were three finalist for the chief’s position when the dust settled. Mackie, Zolgus and a Captain from Cleveland Heights, who had impressive credentials. Mayor Nehez, abiding with the wishes of Council to remain “in house”, selected Sgt. Zolgus as a the new permanent chief. Sgt. Zolgus has been running the department for the past five or so months, giving Council members and the Mayor an indication of the job he could do as chief. Mayor Nehez was pleased with his job performance, and decided after nearly a year without a Police Chief, it was time to pull the trigger on the appointment of Sgt. Zolgus. Legislation was put on the agenda for Wednesday night’s Northfield Village Council meeting to make that appointment, removing the O.I.C. designation to Police Chief. That legislation was pulled hours before the meeting, when Mayor Nehez realized he didn’t have the four votes needed for the confirmation of Sgt. Zolgus to the Chief’s position.
This is where things get complicated. It was known that Councilman Gary Vojtush was not going to vote for Zolgus, having preferred Lt. Mackie as the chief. Mayor Nehez assumed that Council members Noack and Magistrelli would confirm the Mayor’s selection of Zolgus. With the resignation of Councilman Jim Daugherty earlier this year, this left Councilors Allan Hipps and Jennifer Domzalski as the deciding factors of the selection process. Previously Domzalski stated she wanted Zolgus to have a six moth trial period for her to make a determination. The six month period is nearly up. Hipps remains undecided as to whom he would select, possibly wanting to explore other options. Councilman Vojtush has now also stated that he as well, might want to look outside the department for the choice.
This whole debacle will once again be revisited this Wednesday night (August 30th) during a public work session at town hall, when council and the Mayor will rehash who to name as the next chief. In my opinion, Northfield Village Council has had nearly a year to make a determination which direction to go for a new Chief. They have had two “in house” candidates (Lt. Mackie and Sgt. Zolgus) audition for the job assuming the O.I. C. role. Do they now want to revisit the third outside the department candidate? Will the vote come down to who the new member of council is replacing Jim Daughtery ? How will he or she vote? Council had thirty days to make that appointment as well, without a selection being made. Now the choice is in Mayor Nehez’s hands for a replacement for Councilor Daughtery, which he does not need council’s approval for.
It’s time for this council to GET OFF THE FENCE, and make a decision. They couldn’t come up with a replacement for Councilor Daughtery. After nearly a year, they can’t decide on who to name as the Chief of Police. Some members of council claim they were left out of the loop as far as candidate selections. This is a claim Mayor Nehez refutes, saying everybody was part of the process. Councilman are supposed to be the eyes, ears and THE VOICE of the residents of Northfield Village. The residents of Northfield Village should have demanded a Police Chief that will be held accountable for the how the department is run. The Officer in Charge title is tantamount to having a substitute teacher for a period of time. You can get by, but it’s not the same as a the real teacher. Lt. Mackie and Sgt. Zolgus have both done commendable jobs in the interim as O.I.C.. Council members were elected to make tough decisions. During this next Wednesday nights 7 pm. work session, I would lock them in the room, not allowing them to come out until they have decided on a Police Chief. If they prefer someone other than Mackie or Zolgus, express that opinion. But being without a Chief going on one year isn’t fair to the residents they represent. MAKE A DECISION!!