Tensions boiled over Tuesday afternoon as residents protested the city's ongoing investigation of Sandusky police Chief Kim Nuesse.
"We feel there is an injustice that has been done to our police chief," said Rev. Tom Darden, former city commissioner, ex officio mayor and political chairman for the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance.
On Monday, the Alliance announced it's seeking to recall city commissioners Dennis Murray Jr., Craig Stahl and Brian Crandall. The group also called for the immediate reinstatement of Nuesse, who has been on paid administrative leave since March 10. It also asked for an outside investigation into the motives and actions behind the city's investigation of Nuesse.
The group hosted a press conference Tuesday afternoon at the State Theatre to declare its support for Nuesse and detail its plan to pursue a recall. A heated, hour-long debate ensued. Commissioners Murray, Stahl and Julie Farrar were pelted with questions about the investigation and the February meeting at the Sandusky fire station that Nuesse characterized as an "inquisition."
"It was not an interrogation," Murray said. "That meeting was not about the police chief."
Murray took the podium prepared to address some of the concerns expressed by the alliance, particularly about the February meeting. Murray contested some of the accusations and appeared calm.
Residents booed and jeered as Stahl stood to address the group. An emotional Farrar paced in front of the podium as she fielded questions from unrelenting residents.
Commissioner Dan Kaman was also present at the meeting, but did not speak.
Cost and consequence
"The cost of this fiasco is escalating every day," Darden said. "We are under the impression that it was not done in a legal way."
As of Tuesday, Nuesse has been paid more than $12,000 while on administrative leave. The city has also been billed more than $6,000 by Murman and Associates, the firm conducting the investigation.
Darden compared the situation to a television soap opera. He called for an immediate end to the "nonsense, shenanigans and subterfuge."
More than one resident questioned Kline's allegation that the entire police department made a verbal complaint that Nuesse created a hostile work environment.
"The use of the word 'all' was sloppy," Murray said. He added that he has seen no evidence to suggest Kline's relationship to the truth and decision-making skills should be questioned.
Murray and Farrar both said that they trust Kline and his decisions in the situation. Residents at the meeting, however, didn't share that sentiment.
"We've destroyed Kim's career," said Pastor Dan Miller. "This trigger was pulled too quickly."
Miller also said he talked at length with commissioner Brian Crandall, who indicated to him that Nuesse did not properly inspect the county dispatch system.
Farrar said Monday that the commission was fed a "doom and gloom story" about the city dispatch system and she felt as though she had egg on her face after making a plea to Perkins to combine dispatch systems with the city.
The alliance demanded that Nuesse be immediately reinstated and an investigation should only take place if the charges against her are made known.
"It's not fair to ask anybody to defend themselves against ghosts," said one resident.
A way forward
"We're determined to get this issue resolved by whatever means necessary," Darden said.
He said the alliance will not begin a recall petition at this time in the hopes that city leaders will resolve the situation.
According to the city charter, a recall petition must be signed by 10 percent of the total number of voters in the last municipal election and must also include a statement of the grounds on which the recall is demanded.
In this case, each petition will require 724 valid signatures, according to Jennifer Ferback, deputy director of the Erie County Board of Elections.
For the signatures to be valid, the signers must be registered voters in Erie County and both the signature and address must match the most recent records on file at the board of elections.
If the commissioner designated by the petition does not offer his or her resignation within five days after the petition and signatures have been validated, the city charter mandates a recall election be set within 30-60 days to take place at the same time as any other general or special election within that time frame. The recall vote will then determine if the commissioner will be removed from office.
Crandall, who was not present at the Tuesday afternoon conference, announced more than two weeks ago that he plans to resign by June 1 to pursue family and business opportunities in Huron.
Murray said Kline expects to receive the investigation report either today or Thursday. A notice for a predisciplinary hearing will then be sent to Nuesse. After a predisciplinary hearing, Kline will deliberate and deliver a decision on the situation. At that time, all investigation documents will be public record.