Tears filled Maj. Joe Delia’s eyes and his chin quivered as he recalled the moment when city leaders asked him and his chief, Bill Carson, to turn in their badges and guns Thursday following an unexpected suspension.
“Embarassing,” Delia said of the moment.
And puzzling, to say the least, his attorney Chet Pleban said during a news conference Friday at his office in Richmond Heights.
The men were put on paid administrative leave after allegations of “unfair working conditions” surfaced, according to a news release issued by City Administrator John Krischke. City leaders plan to hire a firm to assess the department and its issues while its leaders are on leave, the release continued.
But the nature of those allegations and who made them has not been revealed to Delia and Carson, Pleban said, and Pleban alleged that the decision to remove Carson and Delia was political.
Pleban is not representing Carson, and it’s unclear who is. Carson could not be reached for comment and was not at Delia’s news conference.
Krischke did not respond to a request for comment Friday. A city spokeswoman said Thursday that city leaders would not be commenting beyond the news release because it involves a personnel matter.
But documents obtained by KTVI (FOX2) indicate that the investigation includes a complaint to the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Missouri Commission on Human Rights, which look into discrimination allegations.
A memo Krischke wrote in advance of a closed meeting of the City Council on the police department earlier this month says: “There is the potential that violations have occurred with respect to federal, state, and local laws for retaliation and discrimination.”
Pleban called Krischke’s news release about Delia and Carson’s suspensions a “work of fiction” and touted the department’s Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies certification as proof that all is well.
“He (Krischke) came from Republic, Missouri, where he had control of the police department, and here, the chief answers to the mayor and he doesn’t like that,” Pleban said. “So he wants to put his own guy in there to control it.”
Sgt. Jeff Swatek, president of the Maryland Heights Police Association, spoke in support of Delia and Carson at the news conference. He said the board of his organization, which represents all of the department’s 77 or so officers “strongly supports,” the chief and his deputy.
He said the city recently conducted an assessment that suggested it reduce its roster, and that Carson and Delia “fought for us.”
“We vigorously oppose any reduction in manpower because of the impact that would have on officer safety and the safety of the community,” he said.
Pleban said that the city’s ordinance says that an employee can choose whether to have disciplinary hearings open to the public or not, and that his client intends to have them open.
“I have nothing to hide,” Delia said.
In Maryland Heights, a civilian police board reviews all disciplinary matters. But officers can appeal decisions and have what’s known as a police board trial in which a hearing officer typically presides and prepares a report to the board. The board can then sustain or change a disciplinary decision.
Learn More About This Case
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