Mass resignations hit Tiltonsville police force

TILTONSVILLE – Village Council Tuesday night tabled the resignation of Police Chief Jerry Davis but accepted the resignations of three officers, including Officer Chase Watts, Officer Dustin Hilderbrand and Lt. Jason Harter.

Davis has worked for the department for 12-1/2 years while Watts and Hilderbrand have been Tiltonsville officers for three years and Harter has been employed in the department for 14 years.

Harter accused Mayor Jerry Vinci of changing the police schedule, and Vinci said he revised the schedule because Davis, who works day-turn submitted his resignation, leaving day-turn empty. “I have to fill the turn so an officer could be at the school,” the mayor added.

Some officers voiced the opinion that the mayor isn’t in charge of commanding the police department and thought Harter should have been called about the resignation.

Several officers and some residents voiced the opinion there was no communication among the mayor, council and police department. More than 30 residents, six officers from Tiltonsville and two from other departments were at the meeting.

“We need to come together,” said Councilwoman Kris Prati. “There definitely is a lack of communication.This sickens me. It sickens me that our chief is resigning after 12-1/2 years. The chief and the mayor need to resolve this.”

Prati asked Davis if there had been a gap between him and mayor, why the chief didn’t go to the council’s police committee. On that committee are council members Prati, Jason Staskey and Kelly Klubert.

“I feel that $6,800 is the straw that broke the camel’s back,” Prati said.

Vinci said that the only issue that he knew of involving him and Davis was the change in the employee formula payment. He went on to say that he discovered the way it was written, Davis as an assistant code administrator would be paid $6,800 for filling out building permits.

The mayor added he didn’t feel it was fair to residents, and he had asked council last year to institute an ordinance that would make the pay scale in alignment with the work performed.

After Harter indicated that the officers at Tuesday’s meeting agreed with council but not the mayor, he, Hilderbrand and Watts walked up to the council table and put their badges and keys on the table with letters of resignation.

A lengthy letter was read by Tammy Davis, the chief’s wife, during the meeting.

Tammy Davis reported in her letter that the chief had tried on numerous occasions to get full-time officers, to get raises for the officers because they were always leaving for other departments which paid more money and also tried to get new tires for the cruisers for months. After each of these statements, she said that he was told the money’s not there.

“Where’s all the money going?” she asked.

Tammy Davis also noted at one point that the chief “worked 12-16 hour shifts five to six days a week for the entire summer for this department because it was his job to make sure the 24-hour police protection that the residents voted for was upheld. (He was) working 120-plus hours overtime in July and August and no one on the administration seemed to care. The money just wasn’t there to make someone full-time and pay for their benefits. At least, he was told so.”

The final paragraph of her letter noted, in part, “Jerry was disliked by some, most of whom didn’t get their way because he didn’t play favorites, but he was loved by most and will be sadly missed. I think most would agree that Chief Davis should hold his head high and be proud of the respect his department had gained during his reign and his numerous accomplishments. Jerry truly loved, serving his town and its residents, but he couldn’t knowingly work for someone who doesn’t treat everyone fairly or he couldn’t trust someone who picks and chooses who has to follow the ordinances and who doesn’t. You can’t pick and choose and make your own rules to what is convenient for you. It is a shame it had to end like this.”

Clerk-Treasurer Tim Rankin had itemized statements of how the $45,000 or a little more in police levy money was used. He added that $142,000 already had been spent in the police department and presented some of the figures before adding, “Many times, I’ve had to transfer money to buy items.”

Vinci said he never wanted Davis to resign and told him during the meeting that he could tear up the resignation and return to the department. Davis made no comment.

The mayor added that he found the resignation letter under council’s front door Nov. 13, and Davis noted he was resigning for another job with the resignation to be effective Nov. 30. The letter also noted Davis wouldn’t work after Nov. 16, because he was taking vacation time.

Klubert said an effort had been made to get officials together to try to talk Davis out of resigning. “We shouldn’t be here tonight like this,” she added, indicating it hadn’t been possible to get everyone together.

Three Tiltonsville officers remain, and Vinci said the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office has agreed to help in Tiltonsville when an officer isn’t on duty.