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Lakewood trustees approve new police chief, revise village authority over the position

Sarah Nader- snader@shawmedia.com Lakewood Village Board write-in candidate Paul Serwatka poses for a portrait while at his Lakewood home Wednesday, April 8, 2015.
Sarah Nader- snader@shawmedia.com Lakewood Village Board write-in candidate Paul Serwatka poses for a portrait while at his Lakewood home Wednesday, April 8, 2015.

LAKEWOOD – Lakewood trustees voted Tuesday night to appoint Sgt. Michael Roth as the next chief of police, but not before amending the municipal code to revise the village’s process of appointing and supervising the police chief.

The previous code, which gave the village manager sole discretion over firing, hiring, directing and approving the polices of the police chief, was amended in a 4-1 vote to instead give power back to the village president with advice and consent of the board of trustees.

Board members voted in 2014 to take approval and oversight power away from the board and give it to former Village Manager Catherine Peterson.

“The amendment that we were putting (forward) served only to revert back to the exact ordinance that was there for the entire history of the village prior to February of 2014,” Village President Paul Serwatka said Wednesday.

Serwatka said the amendment "returns a tremendous level of power back to the residents" because it leaves decisions on the position of police chief up to board members, who are "elected officials."

Jason McMahon was the only trustee to vote against both Roth’s appointment and the amendment to the code, seeking more information from Village Attorney Michael Smoron on what power state law authorizes the board to hold.

McMahon said he could not “in good conscience” support either motion without first receiving confirmation of which form of government Lakewood operated under, whether it be manager form or strong mayor form.

“My opinion may change with additional information from our village attorney,” McMahon said in an emailed statement. “The disagreement had nothing to do with the appointment of Mike Roth but simply that his installation in this important position was supported by law.”

Under the previous ordinance, conflicts arose with appointing a new police chief because of the fact that Lakewood does not currently have a village manager.

Deputy Village Manager Shannon Andrews served as the interim village manager for a period of time but has since returned to her role as deputy, according to Serwatka.

The board also approved Tuesday night a consulting services agreement with Julie Heather Meister to, in part, assist in filling the village manager position as well as support the administrative operations, according Serwatka and city documents.

Meister, a Lakewood-based financial and administrative consultant, will be paid at an hourly rate of $75 working at least 30 hours and no more than 45 hours a week without written approval from Serwatka. Serwatka estimated Meister will work for a “two- to four-week period.”

McMahon abstained from the vote to approve Meister’s services.

“It’s pretty evident at this point … that he’s just there to intentionally play the role of obstructionist, to fight and just give us a hard time through the duration,” Serwatka said of McMahon.

Roth will officially begin his duties July 5 with an annual salary of $72,000 and comprehensive medical, dental and life insurance policies. He also will receive 80 hours of vacation time effective July 5 in addition to 11 holidays and 80 hours of sick leave annually.

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