STOCKTON — Calling for Mayor Dan Rydalch's resignation, dozens of residents crammed into the Stockton fire station Thursday night, cheering the town council's unanimous vote to reinstate police Cpl. Josh Rowell.
"We need a mayor that can work with the town board, that the town board can trust, that has open communication. We need a mayor that the public can support," said Councilman Kendall Thomas at the council-called town meeting.
Rydalch is running for a second term as mayor this election season against Councilman Mark Whitney.
Rowell was fired last Tuesday by Rydalch after Rowell pulled over Rydalch's son and issued him a citation for driving without a license. Rowell was later told that he was being suspended instead.
One of five officers in the small town of 600 south of Tooele, Rowell had stopped 29-year-old Jared Rydalch outside a DUI checkpoint. Jared Rydalch was allegedly avoiding the roadblock and drove away from it; Rowell had been assigned to chase such cars.
Rydalch met with the town council before the meeting to address the incident with the four-member board for the first time, but did not come to the town meeting. He refuses to speak to the media at the advice of his attorney.
In a statement read at the meeting, Rydalch said he received numerous notices from residents — his son included — that officers were stopping drivers outside the planned checkpoint. Rydalch himself was pulled overthat evening.
"I was angry that the officers were exceeding the scope of the traffic checkpoint," his statement read. "This incident is not about my son, this is about an officer exceeding the proper scope of traffic checkpoints, subjecting the town to complaints for unconstitutional stops, and refusing
to cooperate with his supervisor."
If there was a Rydalch supporter at Thursday night's meeting, they did not speak up.
Tyler Rydlach, another son of the mayor, did not defend his father at the meeting, but did ask people to stop calling and harassing his parents.
Rowell's firing has garnered national attention and generated a media firestorm.
Residents at the meeting described Mayor Rydalch as a bully, butting heads with staff and running employees out of town.
"He tries to keep everyone in the dark. He doesn't want people to know that he's trying to run it this way," said Nando Meli, chair of the planning commission. "The thing is, the mayor has fired other people for instances and he's tried to run them out of town."
Residents complained that the mayor was conducting his own private investigation into Rowell's suspension; Meli said the mayor should be investigated.
"This is the kind of attitude and the things the mayor is known for," said Mark Woolley, a former town councilman. "He reacts, he doesn't think and he's supposed to represent our town and our community. And it seems to me more often then not he is representing himself and his interests."
Former town and court clerk Ellen Montague told the Deseret News Wednesday that Rydalch took away her duties, put her on paid leave and eventually asked her to resign. She sued Rydalch in 2006 for violating her civil rights.
Stockton Police Chief Heinz Kopp said Rowell, who has been in his current post less than 10 months, has issued 122 citations in that time and never had a formal complaint.
"The way the mayor handled the situation was uncalled for and unprofessional," he said.
The council voted to put Rowell back in his position, pay him back wages and remove the incident from his personnel record.
Rowell, a Tooele native whose wife is pregnant with the couple's first child, said he was grateful to be back in uniform. He refused to comment on the mayor.
The council, wanting to make sure their action is entirely legal, have asked the town's attorney to determine whether a third-party investigation is needed.
The Council has reinstated the Officer, given him back wages, and is investigating the Mayor.
This is what I saying in the last post. Everyone but the Mayor himself thinks the Mayor overstepped immensely. The officer did what he was supposed to; look for people avoiding traffic stops. The Mayor got all bent out of shape that the ticketed individual happened to be his son, and fired the officer himself. A mayor should NEVER be able to fire a a police officer and bypass the chief, unless he intends on firing the chief. This would be like the President firing a random FBI agent. Doesn't, and shouldn't, happen.
And again, the fact that the mayor was conducting his own investigation said volumes. I agree with the City Council and the people of the town: This Mayor should be fired immediately.