Middletown Town Clerk: Police Chief Question Remains on November Ballot

Sandra Russo-Driska says legal opinion from city attorney is not to remove the resolution approving and confirming Patrick McMahon as chief of police.

The acting police chief referendum question will remain on the November ballot, Middletown Town Clerk Sandra Russo-Driska announced Tuesday.

“It’s staying on,” Russo-Driska explained. “After the press conference yesterday and thinking on the issue, I realized there were two distinct issues. One, is it legally on the ballot per the charter? Obviously, I believe it’s as town charter because I put it there. The second part is: is it valid and legal because the mayor has now withdrawn his nomination of Pat McMahon?”

After consulting city attorney Timothy Lynch, Russo-Driska said, “I asked for a legal opinion in writing to confirm it. In an email, he said I should not remove it.”

Reached by phone, McMahon was pleased upon hearing the news.

"I'm glad this day has come and I'm glad common sense has prevailed. The mayor has said this to the Democrats, 'it's the hand of the people,' and I think anyone, including me, should pass muster on a bona fide initiative."

McMahon said he thinks the Guiliano should have done more research "before blacking my name off the ballot," a task Russo-Driska said Monday was necessary since 16,000 ballots had just been printed Friday.

Early Monday afternoon, Mayor Sebastian N. Giuliano announced to reporters his withdrawal of support for the amendment to approve the appointment of Acting Police Chief Patrick McMahon after he says allegations surfaced McMahon was drinking alcohol while in uniform. Giuliano demoted McMahon to deputy chief, requested he turn in his badge and gun and placed him on 30-day, paid administrative leave pending an internal police investigation into the chief’s actions.

Also Monday, in a late afternoon press conference in front of police headquarters, a visibly angry McMahon fired back at the mayor’s statements, which he characterized as “politically motivated” and “besmirched” his reputation.

“Basically, because I feel it’s two distinct issues,” Russo-Driska said, “whether or the question is valid is not for me to decide. There is no section in the charter that it be removed [and] the petitioner did not request that the question be removed.”

Edward McKeon, who gathered the 2,170 necessary signatures to force the referendum question on the November ballot was pleased at the aboutface.

“I think it’s great. I’m glad it’s back on the ballot. It’ll be very interesting to see what the public decides.”

McKeon said he can’t guess what’ll happen if the resolution passes or even if the now deputy chief will continue to fight. “He has told me that he wants to return to work in Middletown,” McKeon said.

“I don’t always agree with the chief but I think he’s a straight shooter. And because he’s a straight shooter, I think he’s good for the community.”

"At the end of the day, the people of Middletown get to decide, not the politicians, not the disgruntled parties," McMahon said. "The 2,170 folks are no longer disenfranchised."

McMahon said he's optimistic.

"I certainly hope whoever is mayor swears me in and I can continue to work for the people of Middletown."

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