Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Police Officer Reinstated after ticketing mayor's son

An Update:

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.


TRUTH 101 said...

There is more here James. A town of 600 people needs a five man police force? It needs a DUI stop?

It has a planning commission. City Attorney. A town clerk.

How do the citizens pay for all this with only 600 of them. And many of them are children so the actual tax paying population isn't 600.

It looks like they use the police department as a big revenue source. Councilman Thomas turned a council meeting into a political show with his mayor bashing. Not saying he didn't deserve it mind you. This town sounds like a soap opera and who really knows what's going on there.

I think the FBI needs to investigate the whole mess.

James' Muse said...

The issues you bring up are separate issues. DUI checkpoints are not "revenue generators." I know in Oregon we don't have them, but it is a State Decision. But DUIs do kill people.

As for how many they need, five seems about right for having 24 hour coverage and letting each officer have a weekend. 5 or 6 is usually a skeleton crew for 24 hour coverage. But even still, that is a separate issue from this.

The Mayor should be run out of town. He should not have gotten involved with his son's ticket. His son got a ticket, which as I mentioned in the last post, most likely would've gone away by producing a license in court.

But the Mayor got involved, overstepped the chief, and fired an officer. Not only is that unheard of, it is an abuse of power.

THAT is the issue here, Truth. The Officer did what he was hired to do. The Mayor did not, and overstepped his position by a lot, and it doesn't seem like it's the first time.

The FBI doesn't need to get involved. The City Council should be able to handle it. Fire the mayor. Get a better one. Problem solved.

If the citizens are upset with the police force itself, then the city council or new mayor should talk about how to fix whatever problem.

But the mayor had a clear conflict of interest and a clear abuse of power. He'll most likely be out, and the drama will go with him. For now.

TRUTH 101 said...

Everything I know about this is what I've read here.

I've been in drawn out disciplinary meetings involving several of my members that seemed cut and dried at first.

The one there was positive guilt paid the price and got what they deserved. Others were being railroaded and we were able to get to the bottom of things and save jobs.

Not trying to wear you out James. From all you've posted the mayor needs to go and his boy needs a swift kick in the a$$.

Habit and experience make me want to be sure these are truly deserved before closing the books.

TRUTH 101 said...

Oh. I could connect the dots of where I'm going if you want but I don't know how long you want to go with this thread James. If you're interested that's great. If not, no problem.

James' Muse said...

Go for it, Truth. I was curious as to where you were going. I'm hoping it isn't a "Police are bad and usually wrong" kind of thing.

TRUTH 101 said...

Why not. If you're game...

What I am trying to discern is whether or not the officer over reacted and this got blown out of proportion James.

How does a 6oo population community support a five man police force. Doesn't the county have a sheriff's department.

The underlying theme here seems very possible that there is a almsot a "police state" in this small town.

The certainly can't be more than one main thoroughfare that is probably either a county or state two lane road. For this tiny town's police force to assume the authority to have a DUI check on is quite obvious to be nothing more than a roulette game for any fine money this police department can get to sustain itself in such a small town.

There is too much that arouses suspicion in this police force to think that is strictly a law enforcement vehicle James. This is by my estimation an extortion scheme that bullies citizens into fines whenever and wherever it can. This young man, we don't have all the evidence in Mr. Wolfer, may quite possibly be just another victim of the shake down tactics of this police force that has to get it's money from someplace. Unless the 600 residents of this little village don't mind paying exhorbitant taxes officers and cars to patrol a few blocks.

I think there is a good possiblity this young man was shaken down and feeling bullied, called his father. If my son is in trouble and thinks he's being bullied I certainly hope he feels he can call me.

I want to get to the bottom of this just as you do Mr. Wolfer. I'm willing to take the time to get all the information before passing judgement.

James' Muse said...

Again, what you miss Truth, is that the citizen's (and town council) had an outcry against the mayor and NOT the police force. If you theory were correct and the police force was "extorting money" don't you think more people would have spoken up in favor of the mayor? In the record, not one townsperson (unrelated to the mayor) has come forward to support the mayor's action.

The evidence points to a theory that it is the Mayor, not the Police Force, that is unwelcome.

So yes. I pass judgement on the Mayor, after seeing that the townspeople there support their police force over their mayor.

We don't know why they feel they need a five-man police force. Maybe they have a major highway that runs through the middle of town from a neighboring town, and too many drunks were passing through. Who know? Maybe there was a spike in crime. Either way, the town seems to stand behind their police force. So yeah, I'm going to go with them.

Further, as I've stated, the Mayor had a CLEAR conflict of interest and should have complained to the Chief or town council. Instead, he decided to fire someone, which is most towns the mayor actually wouldn't have the authority to do so.

TRUTH 101 said...

Intimidation Mr. Wolfer. The mayor can't arrest and handcuff you. The police can.

James' Muse said...

But if the townspeople were not liking the police, they would've stayed behind the mayor, Truth. But they almost uniformly stood behind the cop. That speaks volumes. Had it been the other way around, I think your point would carry some weight.