Middletown’s Ed McKeon may wear many hats in town — moviemaker, journalist, blogger and parent — but when it comes to petitioning for a chief of police, he’s simply a resident.
That’s why he’s collecting signatures for a petition that could force the appointment of acting chief Patrick McMahon to referendum this November. He needs 5 percent of Middletown voters — 2,166 signatures — by Sept. 8 to force a referendum, according to the city’s charter.
He’s been collecting signatures since Tuesday and with less than 100 to date, McKeon plans to attend bigger events like tonight’s MiddNight on Main 2012 sneak peek and will stand outside of Stop & Shop on the weekends.
“I took [an informal] poll of people on the street, officers and Council members,” McKeon said, asking them, “‘what is it you have against this guy?’ I would hear reasons like ‘a friend of a friend said …’” but he didn’t come up with anything substantial.
“As a journalist, I didn’t have enough to write a story,” McKeon said, much less find a reason why Common Council members twice voted against Mayor Sebastian Giuliano’s appointment of McMahon.
“In my experience, he’s been very responsible in taking care of issues downtown, he’s a mentor at Macdonough [Elementary], he’s gotten involved in the community,” McKeon said. “I haven’t heard a thing bad about the guy” that would support the idea that he shouldn’t be chief.
In January, city leaders voted along party lines — Democrats against the appointment of McMahon and Republicans for it — by an 8-3 tally.
I don’t think the Council did its due diligence. I sat through all the [meetings], I talked to all the [officers]. They must be judging him on some other basis,” McKeon explained.
Pushing the decision into the voters’ hands, McKeon said, will decide McMahon’s appointment once and for all. “Let’s have a democratic exercise and see if everybody agrees with that. … The chief agrees.”
For his part, McMahon is pleased.
“I’m honored, I’m humbled by the efforts,” he said. “I think it’s a great idea. It’s the people doing the people’s business. If the community wants me to stay as their chief, they’ll let us know in November.”
McMahon said the process has been disheartening at times, but he is taking a positive view of the proceedings.
“It’s been two years this month — July 29 — that I was appointed acting chief. I’ve pretty much proven myself competent, capable and able to do the job.”
He welcomes McKeon’s petition.
“Communities don’t elect their chiefs,” McMahon said. “They elect sheriffs, but they don’t elect their chief. But when there’s a disagreement like this, I think it’s very interesting. The people have the right to be heard.”
And although it’s impossible to predict the outcome in November, McMahon said he knows one thing about Middletown's citizens.
“My guess is they felt they weren’t heard at the confirmation hearing when they overwhelming spoke in support of me and the Council voted not to confirm me.
"So now they’re taking action as allowed by the charter.”
“I guess we’ll wait and see the will of the people,” McMahon said. “Truly the heart of democracy is letting the people speak and this is great opportunity to do that.”
This evening, McKeon will be collecting signatures at the MiddNight on Main 2012 preview from 4:30-7 p.m. at the Church of the Holy Trinity, 381 Main St.