Trustees draw fire in Perkins

PERKINS TWP. Enough is enough. A standing-room only crowd packed Township Hall on Tue
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010

PERKINS TWP.

Enough is enough.

A standing-room only crowd packed Township Hall on Tuesday, where two police officers, a highway department employee and several residents demanded trustees put a stop to what they called offending behavior.

The police officers asked the trustees to work harder toward treating the police department fairly, citing criticism of a recent police pursuit of a robbery and drunken driving suspect who had assaulted a security officer at the mall before slamming into three police cruisers after U-turning on a dead-end street.

They also said Trustee Bill Dwelle routinely singles out the department, criticizing training programs, withholding approval of the department's annual written inventory report and refusing to speak directly with police Chief Tim McClung.

Officer Bill Henderly, a 15-year police department veteran, said Dwelle's behavior had led to a festival of unwarranted criticism of the department on the Sandusky Register Web site.

"A couple of weeks ago, I spent a couple of hours reading all of the bloggers' comments that were written ... I have to say, the more I read, the madder I got," Henderly said.

He said the training officers receive is top-notch and should not be taken for granted, and pointed criticism toward one or two officers hurts the entire department.

Police Detective Al Jenkins made his opinion of Dwelle's involvement in the call for a review of the chase and criticism of the police inventories loud and clear.

"Mr. Dwelle refuses to communicate with the chief of police ... he would rather talk to him by way of the newspaper," he said. "All the negative talk in the newspaper makes this township look like a bunch of idiots."

Dwelle refused to answer most of the questions Jenkins asked during a heated exchange, citing a pending lawsuit filed against Dwelle, his wife Sandy and the township by McClung and police Lt. Al Matthews.

McClung and Matthews contend that Dwelle has created a hostile work environment and has routinely defamed their reputations by making numerous unproved allegations.

Dwelle said he ran for election on an agenda -- to bring accountability to the township, and if that means asking questions, he will. But in matters that involve lawsuits brought against him, he can't answer.

Jenkins said no matter what, Dwelle and the other trustees have an obligation to treat the department fairly.

"As far as I'm concerned this is where I work. I'm proud of it and God willing I will retire here," Jenkins said, adding that the current relationship between the police department, Dwelle and the other trustees is the worst he'd seen in his 17 years on the force.

Jim Caldwell, a former part-time employee of the police department who was fired by trustees about two years ago, also spoke at the meeting. Caldwell said trustees should consider suspending McClung and Matthews because they filed the lawsuit.

Caldwell also said trustees should create a citizen oversight committee, a suggestion seconded by resident Cheryl Best-Wilke.

"All of you need to stop acting like school children in a pissing contest," she told trustees. "... Do the job you're elected to do."

Tim Didion, a highway department employee, said trustees should apologize for an unflattering portrayal of department employees in the December performance evaluation of Highway Department Superintendent Daryel Sternberg. The evaluation criticized Sternberg for letting "the inmates run the asylum."

"Where is our apology?" Didion asked the trustees. "Your highway department employees deserve one, but most of all the taxpayers of this township need to know that the people you have employed aren't a bunch of inmates."

Trustee Tom Pascoe owned up to the comment on Sternberg's evaluation, explaining it was a figure of speech like "the tail wagging the dog."

The comment wasn't directed at the employees, Pascoe said, it was his point of view on how the department was being managed.

"If you need an apology for that, so be it," he said.