Patrick McMahon, the acting police chief whose longtime struggles with being appointed chief led to a petition that forced the question to referendum, has been placed on administrative leave and demoted to deputy chief, according to Mayor Sebastian N. Giuliano.
The action is a direct result of conflicting answers Giuliano says McMahon gave him Tuesday regarding allegations McMahon was drinking while in uniform.
"I spoke to the chief directly over the phone," Giuliano said. "Facts I can deal with, human failings. But you ought to fess up to it. Had he given me the whole story ... You raise a lot of doubts when you're not totally forthcoming. He was talking to his boss."
Throughout the more than two-year-long battle with the Common Council to get McMahon appointed to chief of police, Giulano acknowledged, he has been an ardent supporter. Asked how he was feeling about this latest turn of events, Giuliano said, "as well as can be expected."
"I think he let me down. I think he let his department down. I think he let those who went out and gathered petition signatures down, I think he let the 2,170 people who signed it down," a visibly angry Giuliano said.
Giuliano has also withdrawn his nomination of McMahon to serve as chief of police and an investigation has been opened into McMahon's behavior.
"I want to know how much farther it goes," Giuliano says.
“I attended West Point and the Code of Honor is very clear,” Giuliano said. “You do not quibble with facts, you do not parse words. If you are asked a question, it is expected that you divulge everything clearly and completely regarding that incident. I do not believe this to be the case here.”
Deputy Chief William McKenna will assume the responsibilities of acting chief immediately.
“This is extremely disappointing, but a necessary step,” Giuliano said. “While Acting Chief McMahon had accomplished many goals, this incident strikes to his credibility to lead sworn officers to do their duty effectively.”
Futher, the mayor said, "I will never throw my support behind him again."
The mayor also said it’s not clear if the voter initiative question if McMahon should be appointed chief of police can be removed from the November ballot. A legal opinion obtained by the city attorney has determined the mayor’s removal of his support for McMahon renders the initiative invalid.
Town Clerk Sandra Russo-Driska says 16,000 polling ballots were printed last Friday. She will "individually black out every single [referendum] question so the question will not be on the ballot." She also said of the 500 absentee ballots, 200 have already been mailed.
Derek Puorro, president of the police union Local 1361, says he supports the mayor's decision. "We're looking forward to the investigation. It's uncharted territory. I don't know a time in our department when the chief was investigated.
"None of this is our decision," Puorro continued. "If the allegations are true, I hope he does the right thing and resigns instead of putting the city and the department through unnecessary turmoil."
Puorro says he appreciates McMahon's work on behalf of the department's officers.
"He's done good things in the past, I've been happy when he's supported us. There were plenty of times we disagreed also. I have a work relationship with him. It's in the best interest of the union to resolve differences."