Police chief probation lifted

MIDDLETOWN – After 21 additional days of probation, Police Chief Philip Breeden will continue his service to Middletown with close communication with the Town Council.

The Middletown town office was standing room only at the Monday evening Town Council meeting, where the decision was reached. Councilor Carolyn Aliff moved that the meeting agenda shift so that community input occurred after the item of discussing Breeden’s performance.

Mayor Charles Harbaugh IV informed those at the meeting that as per a motion at the Dec. 21 special meeting, he and Vice Mayor Thomas Simon had met with Breeden twice to discuss written complaints from citizens and that recordings of those meetings are available at the clerk’s office.

“We were able to come up with some solutions for those, to answer them, to get back to some folks, to try and iron things out,” he said.

Simon said those meetings bore an overall positive outcome and said work had been done to hammer out an agreement on the complaint policy.

“I think we started a dialogue that, no matter how it moves forward, needs to continue on,” he said.

When asked by Councilor George Smith if he thought the meetings had resolved the issues, Breeden spoke briefly with his lawyer before saying that a few issues remain and that despite minor differences in opinion, the town officials should be able to communicate effectively and find resolutions. He agreed to attend meetings in the future.

“I firmly believe that … everything can and should be handled a little differently than it’s been handled in the past,” he said. “I think that we all should learn to leave any personal agendas outside that door and only conduct town business in here.”

After a question from Aliff about those directing traffic at the town’s Christmas parade, Breeden said the volunteers working that day were not certified.

Breeden said that he wanted to resume the community care program he said he had been running since 2004, and Simon later said the town could work to bring it within VML guidelines. Councilor Jeff Pennington shared his concern about Breeden’s communications with residents and staff, saying he would expect him to be “softer” in that regard further down the road.

In response, Breeden said that despite raising his voice to some residents, he doesn’t believe they hold a grudge against him. He also said he would strive to comply with the council’s requests.

The movement to end Breeden’s probation and continue communications with him was only voted down by Councilor Scott Fink.

Many of those who spoke during the citizen comment section of the meeting echoed the special meeting by voicing their support of Breeden, Harbaugh and the council – with one exception. Betty Ward addressed Breeden directly, saying she felt disrespected after approaching him with an issue of civil disagreement in November. She spoke of continuously deferred responses to her spoken and written concerns.

“I sincerely hope if another person my age ever comes in your office, you will not have the same attitude, the same tone and the same arrogance you had with me,” she said.

Ward later said she intended to settle the matter she approached Breeden with in court, and other citizen commenters mentioned that it seemed to be a civil and private matter rather than a criminal matter.

Additionally, the council unanimously approved a representative committee to work with the Frederick County Sanitation Authority in regards to water and sewer matters, with the exception of Simon abstaining from the vote since he is also on the authority board.

The committee will consist of Smith, Public Works Superintendent Donnie Welsh, Zoning Administrator Fred Wharton and Planning Commission member Joan Roche. Harbaugh amended the motion to add John Blaisdell to the committee as a citizen member after he made a request. Councilor Carole Snyder Jones was absent for the meeting.

Contact staff writer Rachel Mahoney at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rmahoney@nvdaily.com