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Take-home car debate cited in resignation letter


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GREENFIELD — A high-ranking Greenfield police officer has resigned. Sgt. Joe Moore pointed to the lengthy debate on take-home vehicles as a reason for frustration so great he sought a job elsewhere.

Moore submitted a letter of resignation Oct. 26, and it was accepted Tuesday by the Greenfield Board of Works. Moore had worked with the department 10 years.

While he wrote that a job offer with the police department in Scottsdale, Ariz., was the main reason for his resignation, he also stated he has little patience for “small town politics” and is tired of “crossing paths with our elected officials who talk out of both sides.”

“I have grown tired of word games favored by politicians like (council president) Mitch Pendlum, who says whatever he thinks the audience wants to hear, knowing full well there is another agenda known only to him,” Moore wrote. “A perfect example is (Pendlum) coming to the police department singing our praises, then backhandedly attempting to stir public unrest towards us and trying to take away our cars (which is a huge benefit in the underpaid world of law enforcement).”

Moore could not be reached for further comment. The board unanimously accepted his resignation, but member Dan Reigelsperger said the letter was “tacky.”

“We work as a team, and I think (bashing public officials) needs to be stopped,” he said.

Pendlum and Reigelsperger were on a committee this summer that studied the city’s multiple take-home vehicle policies. The committee also included city council members Gary McDaniel and John Patton; they met three times over the summer to iron out differences in the city’s general policy, and police and fire standard operating procedures.

The committee made a recommendation to the entire city council to require employees to keep mileage log books, live in the county to have a vehicle, and eliminate personal use for vehicles. But last month, the council as a whole decided not to change the policy after all.

One of the main points of confusion was whether police policies supercede the city’s general policy. Police officers are allowed to drive their vehicle for personal use, but Chief John Jester points out they’re always on call. If an officer sees someone who needs help, even if the officer is off duty, he or she must respond.

Pendlum was the only member of the committee who wanted to prohibit police officers from driving city cars for personal use. The other three recognized that having more patrol cars on the roads can help prevent crime and traffic problems.

Still, Jester said the uncertainty of the proposed changes upset members of the department.

“It really rubbed the guys the wrong way,” Jester said. “I think they’re fine now, and I’ll be honest – I told them I will fight this until I cannot fight it anymore, because I know how important the cars are to our officers.”

The back row of city hall was filled with police officers at last month’s meeting, and the council voted 4-3 to not make the proposed changes to the take-home vehicle policy. Some members were concerned about limiting department heads who live outside of the county from having one; there was no discussion of the police officers in particular.

The entire process took five months, from the formation of the committee in May to the October decision.

Mayor Dick Pasco said this week that police officers were shocked at the possibility of losing their take-home vehicle benefit, and were also upset with how long it took to resolve the issue.

“I think they were absolutely frustrated,” Pasco said.

The members of the committee decided to meet after plan director Joanie Fitzwater and former parks director Tracy Doyle were allowed cars, and inconsistencies in the city’s policies were noticed. But Pasco never saw a need to form a committee. He said if the city is going to be a competitive employer with other police departments in the state, it should keep take-home vehicles as a perk.

Pasco said he hopes time will heal tensions between elected officials and police officers. He said while he wishes Moore hadn’t written such harsh words in the letter, he wasn’t necessarily upset, saying it’s Moore’s right to express how he feels in a letter of resignation.

Reigelsperger said Pendlum was just trying to do the right thing by forming a committee and looking into the take-home vehicle issue. While Reigelsperger acknowledges employees can write whatever they want in a letter of resignation, he didn’t think the words in the letter were appropriate.

“I just thought that was over the top and unprofessional,” Reigelsperger said. “It just caught me off guard.”

Pendlum said he hasn’t seen the letter yet, and was surprised the issue was brought up.

“I thought it was over with,” he said.

Pendlum said he occasionally goes to city departments and tells employees they’re doing a good job. He said it’s important to remember the committee looked into take-home vehicles as a financial issue more than anything.

“It wasn’t against the police department or anybody,” Pendlum said. “It was for all of the city’s take-home vehicles.”

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