Dover panel decides to maintain police chief job qualifications adopted in 2009

Mayor Robin Christiansen refused step down from the Police Chief Selection Committee as requested by Dover Commissioner Roy Sudler Jr. at Dover City Hall on Tuesday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER — With friction between Mayor Robin R. Christiansen and Councilman Roy E. Sudler clearly evident the search for a new city police chief moved forward Tuesday.

The City of Dover’s selection committee decided to maintain the current top cop job requirements adopted by city council in 2009, quelling any potential controversies if changes had been made.

A draft of potential new requirements was not adopted.

Thus, the committee established a timeline to advertise the position beginning Friday, and close the application process on March 17. The plan is to evaluate resumes and narrow the field by March 29. Then conduct job interviews in April before choosing the new chief by the end of that month.

City manager Scott Koenig’s recommendation to use the current job description and move forward with the search was quickly seconded by City Council President Timothy Slavin. It met no opposition from other committee members.

Mr. Sudler followed by reading a statement that urged Mr. Christiansen to “step away” from the selection committee due to perceived bias against one candidate.

The councilman referenced Mr. Christiansen’s statements at a police department staff meeting on Jan. 9 expressing belief that one potential candidate was tarnished by others over-aggressively pushing him to become the new chief of police.

Dover Commissioner Roy Sudler Jr. asked that Mayor Robin Christiansen step down from the Police Chief Selection Committee meeting at Dover City Hall on Tuesday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

The mayor explained that he was angry at the time of the meeting because he believed outside sources were attempting to unfairly sway the process.

According to the meeting minutes, “Mayor Christiansen stated he was angered by the statements and/or posts made by Sean Lynn on Facebook and then the subsequent sharing of posts by members of the Dover Police Department.

“He further mentioned that a certain person’s relative posted on Facebook and he did not like his character questioned.”

Also referenced was a press conference scheduled for the steps of City Hall by Mr. Sudler and the Rev. Rita Mishoe Paige to which Mr. Christiansen stated, “Sudler already knows this process and he shouldn’t have done that.”

Also, the councilman questioned the mayor’s hiring of a private attorney to protect his interests in possible civil lawsuits that could follow the final selection. The mayor acknowledged retaining his own attorney to protect personal interests, especially in the wake of past police-related lawsuit settlements against the city.

Mr. Christiansen quickly declined the request to resign. He pledged to continue working in the city’s best interests through a transparent selection process established by a unanimous city council vote. He also pledged to uphold the city’s charter, and wasn’t using the search process for a political boost.

Afterward, Mr. Sudler applauded keeping the current job description, but expressed more apprehension about Mr. Christiansen having the final say on which candidate will be presented to city council for a vote of approval.

“I don’t trust the mayor,” Mr. Sudler said. “I don’t have faith he will (conduct a fair search).”

Responded Mr. Christiansen regarding the councilman, “He thinks he’s smooth, but he’s not.”

The councilman also expressed reservations about other committee members he believed had conflicts amongst themselves.

The committee agreed to allocate up to $6,000 for advertising the open position through various outlets.

Attending their second consecutive selection committee meeting were Dover PD Deputy Chief Maj. Marvin Mailey, Capt. Dave Spicer, and Capt. Tim Stump. Each has been referenced publicly as a potential candidate for the top job.

Maj. Mailey has overseen department operations since the retirement of Chief Paul Bernat on Jan. 17.

On Tuesday, Maj. Mailey, Capt. Stump and Capt. Spicer “respectfully” asked that any requests for information on their educational history or training be made via public records request through the city clerk’s office. The officers sought to protect the Dover PD and themselves in the chief selection process, they communicated through a spokesman.

The Delaware State News followed by filing a Freedom of Information Act request with the City of Dover seeking the academic and training information.

Though the position has not been posted yet, Mr. Christiansen said he’d heard talk of two females and two African-Americans interested in becoming candidates. He has pledged to conduct a nationwide search.

The committee will meet again at a date and time to be announced.

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