As Taneytown Mayor Christopher Miller grapples with how to manage what he called a climate within City Hall “that has enabled retaliation against city employees,” the city announced that it had received 12 applications for police chief, a position that has remained open since the last chief was put on administrative leave, then resigned in November.
“After a thorough review of multiple instances, I have come to believe that a climate exists with City Hall that has enabled retaliation against City Employees,” Miller stated in a post Sunday on his Mayor of Taneytown Facebook page. “I have repeatedly raised these concerns with my fellow Election Officials, only to find that my warnings have largely fallen on deaf ears.
“This has left me questioning how to proceed when those around me seem unwilling to hold people accountable,” he said. “Legal opinions I have received have only heightened my discomfort, as they appear to be more punitive against employees and evasive to transparency in nature.”
Miller said in his lengthy statement at https://www.facebook.com/MayorOfTaneytown that due to ongoing legal matters he could not give specifics. However, his statement coincided with publication of a Carroll County Times story that revealed a former Taneytown police officer had filed a lawsuit against the city alleging that his whistleblowing led to his firing earlier this year.
Ralph S. Williams, a former patrolman first class in the Taneytown Police Department, filed a lawsuit in Carroll County Circuit Court Aug. 29, claiming that he was fired from his job after he told multiple city officials that he had witnessed the former police chief sexually harass a female city employee in September 2022.
Williams, 37, of Essex, worked for the department from August 2018 until he was dismissed on Feb. 2. He said the current acting police chief, Maj. Robert Mitchell, was one of the superior officers to whom he reported then-Chief Jason Etzler’s actions last September. Williams said he received an email from Mitchell telling him he was fired.
Etzler was placed on administrative leave for “an intra-departmental personnel matter” in the fall. Former Mayor Bradley Wantz and the City Council officially appointed Mitchell as the city’s acting police chief after Etzler resigned in November.
Williams said he believes his firing is a direct result of his whistleblowing about the police chief.
Hiring a new police chief has been a top priority for Miller since he was elected in May.
Taneytown received 12 applications for police chief as of Friday, the deadline to apply for the position, which has been open since Etzler resigned Nov. 2.
A panel including Miller, other city officials, a member of the community, a member of the Taneytown Police Department, and a retired law enforcement professional, will interview each applicant. Background checks will be conducted, and references will be reviewed.
Miller said he will review the recommendations and select an applicant to present to the City Council. He hopes the process will conclude in November.
According to the job posting, the chief’s salary range will be between $85,000 and $105,000, depending upon qualifications.
On Monday, Taneytown Councilman Chris Tillman, who was elected to the council in May, replied to Miller’s statement on his own Facebook page, Chris Tillman — Crossroads Taneytown.
Tillman stated in his Facebook post that any retaliation against city employees, including what is referenced in the lawsuit filed by Williams, occurred before most of the current council members took office, and involves human resources issues that the council could not know about.
“The issues brought out in the Mayor’s recent post are indeed the subject of litigation, and should not be discussed by any City official in a public forum,” Tillman wrote in the post. When contacted Monday, Tillman said he had no further comment.