Mantua mayor proposes new chain of command for police department

Mantua Police Department. Lyndsey Brennan/The Portager

Last month, an investigator working for the Village of Mantua found that the police chief and one of his officers had violated a department policy that forbids supervisors from dating their direct reports.

To fix the problem, Mayor Linda Clark has proposed changes to the chain of command in an April 19 letter to Chief Joseph Urso and other department staff. 

Under her proposed “modified chain of command policy,” Urso would no longer be allowed to directly manage Officer Miranda Brothers, with whom he is in a romantic relationship, according to the investigative findings of attorney Dean DePierro. (Urso and Brothers told The Portager they did not agree with the report and denied ever having a “boyfriend and girlfriend” relationship.)

Instead, sergeants Eric Dunn and Al Gilbert would be designated as Brothers’ supervisors and would share their duties.

Clark proposed that Urso no longer be involved in scheduling, vacation requests, disciplinary actions, overtime assignments, pay increases, promotions, evaluations, and any other personnel matters related to Brothers.

“Any matter which requires additional action, approval or authority will be forwarded to me in writing, by the sergeant seeking assistance,” she stated.

If emergency situations arise that require Brothers to bypass the chain of command, Clark directs her and Urso to provide written explanations, including the reasoning, and to provide that documentation to the sergeants and to her.

Failure to adhere to the new policy would be a Level 2 disciplinary offense under “Willful disregard of Village rules, regulations, policies, or procedures,” Clark stated.

The mayor also directed any questions regarding the proposed policy to be submitted to her in writing. Under the proposal, Clark would be authorized to execute, distribute and enforce the policy.

But even before Clark’s proposal, it already faced opposition among the ranks.

In an April 4 letter to Clark and “other interested parties,” Dunn expressed his “grave concerns about the ability of the Mantua Police Department to confidently carry out its mission” if he were to become Brothers’ supervisor.

“It will put this agency and myself in jeopardy of a sexual harassment claim due to the personal relationship between a department head and a subordinate,” Dunn wrote. “The proposed changes to how Officer Brothers will be supervised will place me into a no-win situation where an allegation of favoritism, or retaliation, will be a constant threat.”

Dunn’s letter questioned Brothers’ MPD record, specifically noting that she “showed a complete lack of respect for the chain of command” that was in place at the time.

Designating Clark — “an elected civilian, with no law enforcement training or background” — as Brothers’ ultimate supervisor sets the stage for one policy for Brothers and another for all other members of the department, Dunn stated.

Castigating Urso for violating his oath to discharge his duties “honorably and faithfully,” by placing his personal needs ahead of the department’s, Dunn said that “the way the department operates is going to be bifurcated, and the competency of the department has had a shadow further cast upon it.”

During their April 18 meeting, Mantua Village Council agreed to put a new chain of command policy through the normal legislative process. At press time, The Portager could not obtain a copy of the proposal or an audio recording of the meeting.

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Wendy DiAlesandro is a former Record Publishing Co. reporter and contributing writer for The Portager.