By NANETTE LoBIONDO GALLOWAY
VENTNOR – Saying they needed more information about an ordinance that would eliminate the deputy chief’s position in the Ventnor City Police Department, two of the city’s three commissioners Thursday, Feb. 27 agreed to table the ordinance until more information is provided. Commissioner of Public Safety Tim Kriebel voted against the motion to table a vote to adopt it.
The ordinance was introduced without comment at the Feb. 13 meeting when Mayor Beth Holtzman was absent. During a public hearing on Ordinance 2020-02 at the Feb. 27 meeting, Ptl. Hommy Quinones, who is president of PBA Local 97, questioned the restructuring of the Police Department, and asked the commissioners to postpone taking any action until the issue could be further discussed with the rank and file.
Quinones said he only briefly spoke about it with Police Chief Douglas Biagi, and that Biagi indicated the commission would be moving forward with abolishing the position.
Kriebel said it is within Biagi’s purview to reconfigure the department.
He said the reorganization includes removing the deputy chief’s administrative position, increasing the administrative duties of another police department employee, as well as aligning the IT Department under the Police Department.
Kriebel said Emergency Management Coordinator Donna Peterson, who also currently serves as the chief’s secretary, would perform many of the administrative tasks the deputy chief would have performed, and the IT Department, which has a single employee, James Pacanowski, would be under the purview of the Police Department.
“Most of the work the IT Department does is securing the servers in the Police Department against malware attacks, and providing internet security for City Hall employees,” he said.
Neither employee would be receiving an increase in pay.
The last and possibly the only person in recent history to ever hold the deputy chief’s position was Howard Bloom, who retired last year.
The deputy chief position was created by ordinance on April 20, 2017, when Bloom and Biagi were both captains seeking appointment to the chief’s position following former Chief Michael Miller’s retirement. Both men were equally qualified to hold the top cop position. On May 1, 2017, Biagi was appointed to the chief’s position and Bloom assumed the role of deputy chief.
“We felt that was the right thing to do at the time,” Kriebel said. “It was done as a way to recognize both captains, because only one of them could be chief.”
Kriebel said Deputy Chief Bloom, whose salary was $159,650 when he retired, would have been eligible to become chief upon Biagi’s retirement, but he chose to retire instead. His retirement became effective on April 1, 2019, the same day Former Capt. Charles A. Wood Jr. retired. Neither position was backfilled.
Kriebel said the city would not be filling the second captain position. There are currently five lieutenants who supervise each patrol unit.
“With the removal of this position and the possibility of further reductions, it would affect manpower of supervisors and negatively affect the quality of life for the citizens of this community, which our members have always strived to preserve,” Quinones said, asking the committee to postpone action until the matter could be discussed with union representatives.
“I like smaller government, and we have plenty of administrative oversight,” Kriebel said.
Kriebel said Holtzman may not have been aware of the reasons for the reorganization.
“We didn’t do all our homework between meetings, so we were not on the same page,” Kriebel said.
If the Imagine Ventnor team is re-elected, one of the first things it would have to do would be to negotiate five new collective bargaining agreements, including the police contract, which are due to expire shortly after the election. To date, no one has stepped forward to challenge the Imagine Ventnor team in the May 12 non-partisan election. Candidates have until March 9 to submit a nominating petition to the City Clerk’s Office.
“I know this is Mr. Kriebel’s department, but we’re supposed to have public discussion on it,” Holtzman said. “During our tenure we added the position and now it’s being deleted, and I think we need to be consistent and I would like to table it.”
Commissioner Lance Landgraf voted for the mayor’s motion to table; Kriebel voted against it.