Newell files petition to remove police commissioner

PARKERSBURG – Mayor Bob Newell said a petition to remove a Parkersburg Police Civil Service Commission member has been filed with Wood County Circuit Court.

The three-member Police Civil Service Commission is tasked with hearing grievances, such as when an officer contests disciplinary action, and with certifying testing required of new hires and promotions within the police department.

Newell said the 16-page petition filed Monday lists numerous alleged instances where commission member Joe Gonzales delayed testing for new officers, certification for promotions and abused their authority.

The petition originally named both members Joe Gonzales and Robert Campbell, but the petition filed Monday requests only the removal of Gonzales. Newell said attorney John Teare, who represents the commission, said Campbell had announced his intention to resign.

In a letter to Newell dated Nov. 18, 2013, Campbell tendered his resignation but places the blame for his departure squarely on the mayor. Campbell was appointed in 1999 under then-Mayor Gene Knotts and continued to serve under then-Mayor Jimmy Colombo. Campbell was reappointed by Newell in 2011.

“I never sought nor desired to be involved in the game of politics. Now that my service no longer fits your political aspirations, my service is apparently no longer necessary,” Campbell wrote to Newell. “You have chosen to publicly defame me and impugn my public reputation. Your assertion that I have committed dishonest acts is deplorable.

“I resign because of the hostile environment you have created over the last several months. In my consideration, you have written derogatory, defamatory, unprofessional, demeaning and threatening letters to the commission in an effort to get your wishes.”

Newell responded, “I’m happy to have received his resignation, but I dispute the contents of it. There are records of all of the communications between me and commission. Everything we do is public record.”

Attorney Bill Merriman said Tuesday he was representing Gonzales, and his client has not resigned.

“Mr. Gonzales has received a libelous letter from the mayor requesting his resignation,” Merriman said. Gonzales “denies each an every allegation in that letter.”

Merriman said the mayor also offered Gonzales and Campbell 10 days in which to resign, but filed the petition only four working days after the initial letter was sent.

“I do not believe there are grounds or good cause to remove Mr. Gonzales from this voluntary position,” Merriman said. The two had not yet seen the 16-page petition for removal, but “I will review it and consult with Mr. Gonzales and we will make the appropriate response.”

Newell sent letters to the two commission members last week, stating his intention to have them removed. Newell called the commission “grossly dysfunctional” and accused the two of “multiple intentional and dishonest acts” designed to cause issues for the city police department and administration and which resulted in more than a quarter million dollars in court costs for the city.

In the letter Newell said a petition for removal would be filed “within 10 days. In the meantime your resignation would be appreciated.”

Newell delayed filing the petition last week after he received word both Gonzales and Campbell would resign. Shortly after the announcement, Chris Morehead with the Parkersburg Fraternal Order of Police said Gonzales had not resigned, nor had he been removed by the FOP. The FOP is one of three bodies to appoint members to the commission.

Morehead did not return a call Tuesday seeking comment.

Newell said the two commissioners had already been removed, regardless of when they resigned. Newell announced Friday he had appointed Parkersburg attorney George Zivkovich to fill Campbell’s position. Zivkovich has served as contracted counsel for the Parkersburg Utility Board but is not a member of the board, Newell said.

The Chamber of Commerce of the Mid-Ohio Valley appointed former councilman and Parkersburg businessman Tom Joyce to the commission. Joyce replaced Doug Kreinik who formally resigned last week after serving two years on the commission. Kreinik was not part of the letter of notification sent to the other two members, was not included in the petition and has not been accused of any wrongdoing.