Two officers promoted to sergeant

PARKERSBURG – The promotion of two Parkersburg police sergeants marked the end of two years of conflict between city administration and the Parkersburg Police Civil Service Commission.

Mayor Bob Newell led a swearing-in ceremony Friday at the municipal buildings. Officers John Cumpston and Wendy Cox received their sergeants’ stripes.

The event also was historic because Cox is the first female sergeant to serve in the department. Cox said she hopes her promotion inspires other women and young girls to set and strive toward their goals.

“Even though this is the 21st century, there are still firsts to achieve,” she said Friday.

A recent upheaval of the the three-member Police Civil Service Commission, which is tasked with hearing grievances and certifying testing required of new hires and promotions within the police department, led to two new members being appointed and one position left vacant. Those new members signed off on the results of a November 2011 sergeants exam, which allowed for Friday’s promotions.

The new commission members signed off on the test results Wednesday. Both Cumpston and Cox passed the sergeant exam in 2011, but only Sgt. Greg Collins was promoted at that time to a vacant position.

At Friday’s ceremony Newell declined to comment on the past commission members, saying only he was pleased to see the promotions take place.

“I’m very glad the new commission came in and hit the ground running,” he said. “Within a few hours they solved a problem that has been plaguing us for years.”

Police Chief Joe Martin said the new commission has already established new testing dates. Martin said the list of eligible candidates from the last police officers test has already been exhausted.

“We will be hiring three in December, and they will be going off to the academy in January,” he said. “That still leaves us one short.”

Martin said a new police officers exam is scheduled for Jan. 11 to help replenish the list of potential candidates. A lieutenant and captain exam is scheduled for February to help alleviate the department’s shortage of administrators.

“It’s a relief,” Martin said. “It’s been a heavy burden on the administration and the department.”

Earlier this month Newell sent letters to commission President Robert Campbell and member Joe Gonzales informing them of his intent to have them removed from the Police Civil Service Commission and requesting their resignations.

In the letter 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.

After several days Campbell submitted a resignation, but Newell filed a petition in Wood County Circuit Court to have Gonzales removed.

Gonzales and his attorney Bill Merriman have not returned several calls seeking comment. Earlier this week Merriman said he intended to review the 16-page petition with Gonzales before deciding on a course of action.;

In his resignation Campbell accused Newell of bullying the commission members and committing slander and libel in an attempt to ruin their reputations in the community.

Earlier this week Newell appointed Parkersburg attorney George Zivkovich to fill Campbell’s position. 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 earlier this month 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.

Attorney John Teare who represents the commission said the two newly appointed members are the Police Civil Service Commission.

“As best as I can decipher, the civil service commission has two members at this time: One appointed by the mayor and one by the Chamber if Commerce (of the Mid-Ohio Valley),” Teare said in a statement Thursday. “I am informed that a removal petition was filed in circuit court concerning the FOP appointee and that should be public record. I am not involved with the removal petition in any fashion.”