Police Chief Robert Leman’s last day on the job will be Sept. 30 after serving the department for 10 years.
The Shelby Township Board of Trustees voted against renewing the chief’s contract for three more years Tuesday evening. Leman’s previous one-year contract expires Oct. 1.
After nearly two hours of public comment and an impassioned plea from the chief to keep his job, the board voted 5-2 against renewing the contract.
The boardroom erupted after the vote was taken, and members of the audience began shouting at the trustees. One woman approached the trustees and yelled, “How can you sleep at night?”
Despite the public’s overwhelming support, Supervisor Richard Stathakis stated before the vote that he was not in favor of the contract extension because the chief failed to meet his expectations.
“I think the Shelby Police Department would be better served to go into a different direction,” he said.
After the vote, Leman told Patch he believed some of the board members based their decisions on personal matters.
“I met with Mr. Stathakis and he had a litany of complaints against me, and all the complaints were personal in nature, none had to do with my job running that police department,” said Leman.
Trustee Paula Filar said Tuesday evening that her nay vote was based on a public matter, and Chief Leman would be receiving a letter shortly.
“As Paula Filar said, ‘I will be sending a personal letter.' This is a public meeting. Express your displeasure at what I am doing wrong,” said Leman.
Police Report Critical to Leman’s Fate
Much of the two-hour discussion was focused on a r The $30,000 report, commissioned by the board of trustees, analyzed the police department’s operational and procedural practices, budgetary staffing issues and service levels.
The report stated, “STPD’s management appears to be strong in some areas and not pro-active in other areas.”
The board will be formally reviewing the Nottley report on Oct. 5 during a pubic work session.
“We haven’t had the work session yet to go through the Nottley report. Why would we make a decision now? Then the report doesn’t even make sense,” said Clerk Terri Kowal.
The chief said he was upset that he hasn’t had a chance to work out any of the recommendations made on the report.
“For the five members that voted against me, it was just a hoodwink. They indicated that the study was going to come out and it would dictate whether I would continue my employment based on the recommendations and if I could accomplish them,” said Leman.
Trustee Douglas Wozniak said he would have been in favor of a one-year contract extension to allow the chief time to implement the changes suggested in the Nottley report.
“I had originally hoped the report would be done in May. … I don’t think the timing of the Nottley report coincides well with the chief’s contract,” said Wozniak, who voted against the extension of the three-year contract.
Several residents spoke in favor of keeping the chief.
“He’s managed to run the department efficiently given the tools you’ve given him,” said Shelby resident James Boyle. “I am a taxpayer, and I am not looking for a change. Anything less than a three-year contract, I don’t think were giving the man a fair chance.”
When Leman started with the department in 2001 the police fund was at $3 million, he told the board Tuesday. It now has $11.2 million and the police equipment replacement fund grew from $300,000 to $4 million.
“I do not credit the chief, and I don’t know if he credits himself for the many achievements he listed. That’s his job,” said Treasurer Paul Viar.
Leman also told the board he was able to fund the new $4 million police department in cash, without dipping into the township’s General Fund.
“We wouldn’t have a new police building being built if it wasn’t for Chief Leman,” said Shelby resident Clarence Cook.
What’s Next for the Shelby Township Police Department?
Stathakis, who is tasked with appointing an interim chief until the permanent position is filled, told the public he does not yet have a replacement in mind.
“As a lot of people have told me, one door closes and another opens. I have faith in God that he has something else for me,” said Leman.