By overstaying his welcome, Girard Police Chief Anthony "Buster" Ross has made sure that his 50-year record of public service will have asterisks pointing to the fact that job evaluations late in his career showed him to be a mediocre employee, at best, and insubordinate, at worst.
His conviction of drunken driving, for which he was fined $300 and lost his license for six months, his age discrimination lawsuit against the city, which he won, and his 2003 guilty plea for operating a motor vehicle without full attention are part of his record.
In May 2003, we published an editorial about the chief in which we said, "How many times does [Ross] get to embarrass the city he purports to serve? At a time when the police department is undermanned and its remaining officers operating under stress, Ross has become, once again, a distraction." The editorial was prompted by his alleged assault on a city businessman with his unmarked city car and a verbal threat that he would eventually "get" the businessman.
The incident resulted in the guilty plea in 2003.
In January 2001, after almost a year's absence, Ross returned to work. By his own admission at the time, he had been given a second chance at life -- having come through an illness that, at one point, prompted the administering of the Catholic Church's last rites.
We marked his return with an editorial that said of his recovery, "... that's not the only second chance Ross is getting. He now has the opportunity to prove his critics, including this newspaper, wrong. He has a chance to demonstrate that he has learned from his past job evaluations that showed him to be a mediocre employee at best."
We suggested that he follow the example of his fill-in, Capt. Frank Bigowsky, who worked eight hours a day, every day, and attended all the city council meetings he was scheduled to attend. When he was on vacation, Bigowsky made sure another captain filled him for him.
These are things Ross failed or refused to do.
Did he prove his critics wrong? No.
Thus, when Ross announced this week that he will retire Feb. 28, a few days before his 80th birthday, newspaper stories of his impending departure not only pointed to his unprecedented length of service -- he joined the department in 1954 and became chief in 1973 -- but spotlighted the long line of incidents that are part of his employment history.
He has only himself to blame for the less than glowing coverage. In a letter to the editor published in The Vindicator on April 28, 2004, Ross acknowledged that he made his share of mistakes, but still sought to portray himself as the victim of the media and "select members of the public."
If only the chief had retired when his record was largely spotless and when he was a fine example of a good cop.
To be sure, there are bound to be missteps when an individual has spent 50 years on the job, but Chief Ross stepped over the line one too many times. He stayed when he should have left.