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LIBERTY Five applicants declared finalists in panel's search for police chief



Published: Sun, August 5, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Only 10 applicants answered the nationwide call.

By TIM YOVICH

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

LIBERTY -- If the township doesn't have a new police chief by this week, it may be a while.

A five-member committee has interviewed five of six applicants who meet the township's minimum requirements.

The six were referred to the committee by the Ohio Chiefs of Police Association.

A sixth candidate also met the minimum standards but has health problems and couldn't make it from Florida for an interview, township administrator Darlene St. George said.

If the committee makes a recommendation to trustees, a new chief could be named this week.

If the committee doesn't recommend any of the five finalists or if trustees don't think the recommendation will "fit" the township, OCPA will be asked to start the process again.

St. George said starting over with national advertising could take "a long time."

Robert Faulkner, a committee member, said if the board has a recommendation to trustees, it will be made Monday afternoon.

Total applications: Despite the OCPA's national search for Liberty's new chief, only 10 people applied.

St. George attributes the small number to three factors: Pay of between $53,000 and $60,000 a year, a residency requirement and ongoing turmoil in the department.

Controversial: The names of two applicants raised eyebrows among law enforcement officials when the township made public the five finalists, St. George said.

Included were Janet Virostek, a Liberty police sergeant, and Gary Mink, police chief in Cortland, who has been in and out of jams.

Mink was suspended for being photographed in 1991 with two other officers posing with a woman wearing a thong bikini in the police station.

An investigation by Atty. Mark L. Manlove of Garrettsville showed "poor judgment on the part of Chief Mink."

In 2000, he resigned to take another job, then was allowed to return. In 1999, the city had to pay $4,000 because Mink copied a computer software program that was used by the police department.

The settlement was paid to the Business Software Alliance after Mink violated the federal Copyright Act that gives the owner of the copyright -- not the owner of the software -- the right to reproduce the copyrighted work.

Liberty study: An OCPA study of the Liberty department, meanwhile, determined that the three-member management team, which included Virostek, was responsible for the department's being "rife with organizational dysfunction."

The study said the management team caused "irreparable damage" and questioned if the team could "effectively regain a level of organizational trust and credibility."

The management team at the time consisted of then-Chief Michael Pilolli and Capts. James Cerenelli and Virostek.

Because of the study, Michael Pilolli resigned as chief, returning to his former rank of captain. Virostek was demoted because of seniority and her post was filled by Pilolli. Cerenelli remains a captain.

The other three candidates are Girard Police Capt. Frank Bigowsky, former Fairborn Chief Anthony Slifka, and James Zindroski, former chief in Orrville and North Royalton.

Pleased with process: St. George said she likes the process involving the OCPA and residents committee.

The administrator said she has been able to keep a distance from the selection process, other than making herself available when the committee wants to consult with her.

yovich@vindy.com




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