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NORTHFIELD VILLAGE Mayor Jesse Nehez ended the Feb. 22 Council meeting by reading a prepared statement expressing distress over what he said was Council's lack of support for his pick for chief of police -- the department's Sgt. John Zolgus.
"I am confused, disheartened and discouraged with regard to lack of support of my proposed candidate to become the Village of Northfield's next police chief," Nehez said. "I am disappointed that some cannot see the value in Sgt. Zolgus as an effective leader. It is my belief that Sgt. Zolgus has what the village needs to move the department forward. I feel that Sgt. Zolgus has the motivation, mind set and management style that are exactly what the village needs to unite our police department. It saddens me that I have not been able to appoint a leader I trust and would be able to work with on a daily basis.
"Please know I will not let this situation affect me negatively because of the issues brought before me regarding my decision. I will continue to work through these issues and not let our village suffer despite them," Nehez said.
While there has been no official vote by Council, Law Director Brad Bryan said there were two other finalists out of eight who applied for the position: Cleveland Heights Police Captain Geoffrey Barnard, and Northfield Village Police Lt. Jamie Mackie, who is presently serving as officer in charge of the department.
Under the village charter, the mayor, who is also the village's public safety director, needs a two-thirds vote of Council -- or four members -- to confirm his appointment of the chief of police. Council last discussed the police chief appointment in an executive session at a special Feb. 16 Council meeting.
Members of Council did not respond to Nehez's statement. Council President Nick Magistrelli did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.
Nehez told the News Leader that as of press time Feb. 27 he is not giving up on his candidate and is considering proposing a vote at a future meeting but has not made a final decision.
"It is difficult when you have a split Council," he said. "It's very disheartening when they (Council) won't even let him show us what he can do. There is a year probation period, why not let him get in there and show us what he can do?"
He added he is still communicating with Council and brainstorming about what the next steps will be.
Zolgus' resum states he has worked for the village police department since 1997. He maintains and manages police department records, processes and maintains department case files, maintains departmental statistics and supervises patrol employees. He attended the Hiram Police Department Academy at Hiram College.
Mackie has worked for the village police department since 1994. He has been serving as officer in charge since November. According to his resum Mackie has been the department's crisis intervention team coordinator, intelligence liaison officer and SWAT team administrator. He organized and developed the department's first full-time detective bureau. He attended the CCC West/Cleveland Heights Police Academy.
Barnard worked for the Cleveland Heights Police Department since 1988, according to his resum. His stated accomplishments include implementing a records software system, scheduling for nearly 130 police and civilian personnel, and creating a policies and procedures manual for the department. He attended the Cleveland Heights Police Academy.
The police chief position was left vacant after former Police Chief Mark Wentz sent a letter Nov. 3 confirming was resigning and retiring, effective Dec. 31, 2016. The letter came after Nehez suspended Wentz Oct. 5 citing his alleged actions at the Hard Rock Rocksino Northfield Park. An investigation into Wentz's activities was ordered but then suspended upon his resignation.
Bryan previously said there were no charges against Wentz and his actions were related to Wentz seeking autographs while working security at a concert.
Wentz served nearly 40 years as a police officer, including more than 15 years as chief in Northfield Village.
Briana Barker: 330-541-9432