News and Commentary
In the end, there was very little surprise.
When it came to voting for the appointment of Acting Police Patrick McMahon to the permanent position it was Republicans supporting the appointment, and Democrats opposing in a role call vote requested by David Bauer (Kleckowski, Bauer, Bibisi, Pessina - yay; Streeto, Santangelo, Daley, Serra, Loffredo, Kasper, Faulkner - nay).
And while Jim Streeto made an argument after the meeting that all the individual Democratic members voted no for their own reasons, don't let anyone fool you, the party line tells the story.
Four and a half hours later it was clear that this was not about whether Pat McMahon should be the permanent chief. It's about a Democratic Common Council feuding with a Republican mayor, the way it's been about every major issue in town since the pattern was set when Seb Giuliano was elected five years ago.
"Those weren't explanations, they were excuses," McMahon said after the meeting. "I think their conduct was discriminatory."
One needn't be the Amazing Kreskin, or even the Average Kreskin to have predicted the outcome, or the proceedings.
It began during the questions to directors when City Attorney Tim Lynch was peppered with questions about his interpretation of the role of the Common Council in the confirmation process, and the definition of residency.
City Attorney Tim Lynch defending the definition of residency. Notice the Channel 3 reporter texting in the background as he did during the entire proceedings.
Lynch told the Council what it didn't want to hear, that their role was to make an objective decision about the candidates qualifications, and not allow subjective opinions to sway their decision. He also defined "residency" and "domicile" as where you live and said that the chief had met the legal obligation of residency by owning a house in the city, living there, paying taxes and being involved in the community. Councilman Streeto laid the groundwork for a complex legal trap he would spring later by asking several questions about case law, precedence and charter revision language. The debate about the terms went on for most of an hour, and would foreshadow the confirmation hearing in the regular Common Council meeting.
A handful of McMahon supporters, including Izzi Greenberg, the head of the North End Action Team, and Derek Puorro, the president of the police union took to the podium to urge the Council to vote for his confirmation. Board of Education member William Grady, who had recently worked with McMahon on the restoration of School Resource Officers spoke about his interaction with the Acting Chief.
"During those hours," Grady said. "He was intelligent, sensitive and of unfailingly good humor. We were able to work together to solve a problem."
Attorney Kevin Smith, who has become something of a gadfly critiqued the decision of police to occupy the Board of Education building, to seize BOE computer equipment, and to arrest two football coaches who were accused, and later acquitted of not providing water to players during warm weather practice. Smith, whose barbs seemed to be directed at the mayor, offered that he didn't know how any of these law enforcement situations would affect confirmation, but he took a stab at the definition of residence.
"You can have as many residence as you want," Smith said. "You can only have one home."
Obviously Smith has never spoken to a child in a joint custody divorce, or with someone who is forced to commute between states to make a living.
Eye correspondent Stephen Devoto spoke in favor of the chief's confirmation saying that the chief showed an impartiality which manifested in a lack of being deferential to anybody.
"I don't want somebody whose going to defer to me, or a member of the media, or you or to you," he said pointing to Council members.
Devoto's name was mentioned by several of McMahon's detractors on the Council in later debate as each used Devoto's words out of context, and to defend a point opposite the one he made.
As the confirmation continued, Personnel Director Deborah Milardo was asked to speak, and took time to defend her department.
McMahon began his testimony with a defiant opening statement which challenged the Council to judge him on his qualifications, and not on the process by which he had been selected.
In the end, Streeto's argument seemed moot as his Democratic colleagues exercised their right to advise and consent by providing several reasons, outside of qualifications, why they would not vote to approve McMahon.
Councilman Daley cited employment history and job performance as reasons for rejecting McMahon.
"It doesn't mean I don't think he has some good qualities," Daley said. "It doesn't mean I don't think he's done some good things in the city. He has."
Councilman Klattenberg also damned McMahon with faint praise.
"In my opinion Acting Chief McMahon is doing a fine job for the City of Middletown," Klattenberg said. "But is he the right candidate for the job? My answer is "no."
Democratic Council members caucus during a recess in testimony.
Councilman Faulkner expressed that McMahon had not proven himself in the community, and in the structure of the department, and referred to "some things I've heard around town," as his reason for voting no.
Councilman Santangelo went further and confided that he had heard up to two hundred complaints about McMahon.
"I kept hearing this repeated thing," Santangelo said. "I don't know where it was coming from - please don't make him chief. Hearing this message over and over again is going to move me to vote 'no' tonight."
After the meeting Santangelo, who is chairman of the Public Safety Commission, said that he never discussed the complaints with the mayor or the police chief, and never brought them up as an issue at the Public Safety Commission.
McMahon found staunch but fatalistic support from Republicans Deb Kleckowski, Joe Bibisi and Phil Pessina who made another passionate speech criticizing the actions of his Democratic colleagues.
After the failure to be confirmed, McMahon was philosophical.
"I will continue to do what's my sworn duty to do," McMahon said. "And I will pursue every option for the job that should be mine."