Easton Police Chief Stephen A. Mazzeo said Thursday he is resigning under pressure from Mayor Phil Mitman.
Mazzeo, 50, said he was asked to resign late Wednesday afternoon during the second of two meetings in City Hall with Mitman and his chief of staff, Stu Gallaher.
"They said they wanted me to resign effective Monday," Mazzeo said. "I said, "What have I done wrong?"'
Mazzeo said he will submit his resignation letter Monday, but he has offered to continue working through the end of the year to help with the transition.
Mitman issued a brief written statement late Thursday after learning Mazzeo had notified media outlets about his impending resignation.
"This change is about the long-term critical future of our city and our police department," Mitman wrote. "I have had to make an extremely difficult decision that our city and our police department need a new and different leadership."
Police union officials, who previously called for Mazzeo's resignation, said the officers rejoiced when they learned what had transpired, but they were disappointed in Mitman for not making the decision sooner.
"This vindicates the men and the citizens of the city," said Dominick Marraccini, president of Fraternal Order of Police Washington Lodge 17. "It also shows there was no need for us to call for a vote of confidence because the mayor has now shown he has no confidence in the chief."
Mitman apparently asked for Mazzeo's resignation without a solid transition plan.
Mitman said he would begin advertising today for a new chief. He hopes to hire someone who has served in multiple supervisory positions, has advanced
management skills, a high level of police training and experience working in an accredited department.
The mayor's statement provided no further details, but he said he would discuss his decision in more detail today.
Mazzeo said the mayor indicated to him he would appoint an interim chief from within the department while searching for a permanent replacement.
Marraccini and the police union's vice president, Charles McMonagle, said they hope the mayor would seek the advice of the officers in hiring the next chief.
Although Mitman offered no explanation for asking the chief to resign, Mazzeo said he was told he was "moving too slow" in reorganizing the department and reining in overtime, and that he lacked "management style."
But as recently as July, the mayor publicly backed Mazzeo and became indignant when asked at a news conference whether he was looking to replace Mazzeo.
"The chief is the chief. That's my comment for now," Mitman said then.
City Council President Sandra Vulcano and Vice President Michael P. Fleck declined to comment when asked about Mazzeo's impending resignation.
Mitman named Mazzeo as chief the day after he became mayor in January 2004, saying he believed Mazzeo could "rebuild the morale and leadership that has been missing over the last several years."
No one else in the 63-member department expressed interest in the job.
But the department kept hitting new lows. Morale slipped after high-ranking officers were demoted in a reorganization by Mazzeo three weeks after he took the $65,500 job.
A police officer who did not want to be identified said news of Mazzeo's resignation spread rapidly through the department Thursday, and officers were smiling and high-fiving each other in headquarters.
McMonagle said Mazzeo's resignation will be "an instant morale boost" to the department, which has been in the spotlight of controversy since Mazzeo took over.
Mazzeo, a former union president, also found himself battling with the police union. The rift went public in July 2004 when city police refused to work overtime for the annual Heritage Day celebration.
The rift went public again in March when some officers, upset with Mazzeo's plan to use a computer system tracking crime patterns and officers' productivity, went on a parking ticket blitz, showering cars with tickets while people were at Sunday church services.
Then there was the homicide in the police station March 25, when officer Jesse Sollman was fatally shot by another officer, Matthew Renninger, in a gun-cleaning room at the station, according to city police.
A grand jury in Harrisburg, which has been investigating the shooting for months, has heard testimony from more than a dozen officers, including Mazzeo. More officers are expected to appear next month before the panel when it reconvenes.
During his tenure Mazzeo said policies and procedures were lacking in the department, which had been wracked by a series of police brutality suits costing the city millions of dollars, and the need to get the department accredited.
A series of recent independent studies found the department lacking in a number of fundamental ways.
The critical reports were cited by Mitman when he disbanded the department's SWAT team on July 21, a move that further roiled officers, some of whom stormed out of a City Council meeting in protest a week later. The end of SWAT so enraged Marraccini that he cursed at Mazzeo. The cursing cost Marraccini a 10-day suspension without pay.
Mazzeo said Gallaher was critical of the decision to discipline Marraccini because the chief did not seek Gallaher's approval of the suspension.
Mazzeo, in an interview Thursday, said his attempts to discipline officers were thwarted by Gallaher. Mazzeo said he was frustrated in his attempts to make changes by Gallaher, whom he described as a "micromanager."
"I've been micromanaged from Day 1 from Gallaher," Mazzeo said. "It's been a constant battle the whole time to get basic things done."
"I had to get permission for everything," Mazzeo said.
"I got along with Mitman very well, until yesterday," said Mazzeo, the great-grandson of the first Italian-American to join the police department in 1917. Mazzeo, the nephew of a former police chief, joined the department in 1979.
KEY DATES IN TENURE
OF STEPHEN MAZZEO
Jan. 5, 2004 -- Mayor Phil Mitman takes office.
Jan. 6, 2004 -- Mitman promotes Mazzeo to chief.
Jan. 22, 2004 -- Mazzeo demotes three high-ranking officers, including his cousin, Capt. John Mazzeo, and promotes three others; John Mazzeo later resigns.
July 8, 2004 -- In protest against the administration, about a dozen officers refuse overtime for Easton Heritage Day.
Oct. 20, 2004 -- Mitman admits to allegations by a police lieutenant that he has fixed a dozen parking tickets for eight people.
Jan. 17, 2005 -- Mazzeo decides detectives no longer can serve on the SWAT team. Five detectives transfer to patrol, forcing a reorganization of the vice and criminal investigation units.
Jan. 28 -- Mazzeo orders SWAT members previously led by his cousin to remove pins with the German phrase "eines fuer alles," meaning "one for all," because it was spurring rumors in the community about a "Nazi hit squad. "
Feb. 14 -- John Mazzeo sues the mayor, chief and city in federal court over demotion.
March 6 -- Officers ticket Sunday church-goers for illegal parking after ignoring the violations for years to protest new computer-mapping system. The administration hoped the system would identify trouble spots, but officers believed it would monitor their productivity.
March 25 -- Officer Jesse Sollman, a member of the SWAT unit, is fatally shot inside the police station.
March 28 -- The city agrees to pay $2.5 million to settle a police brutality case brought by former wrestling star Jack Cuvo, who was arrested in October 2001.
July 6 -- Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association report says the department has no written policies and officers lack basic training.
July 8 -- The chief's executive suite is burglarized; a file cabinet containing the Sollman file is riffled through.
July 11 -- A grand jury in Harrisburg begins investigating the Sollman shooting.
July 21 -- Mitman disbands the SWAT team, hires former Colonial Regional Police Chief Daniel Spang as an outside consultant.
July 26 -- Mazzeo suspends police union president Dominick Marraccini for 10 days for cursing Mazzeo over decision to disband SWAT.
July 27 -- SWAT members storm out of the council meeting after Mazzeo defends dismantling the team, saying the department is dysfunctional.
Aug. 4 -- Mazzeo testifies before the grand jury; Mitman asks for a federal probe of police policies and procedures, citing "turbulence within the department. "
Sept. 9 -- Mitman says he wants the first draft of the police department reorganization plan from Mazzeo by Sept. 23.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun