Commissioners say the
mayor’s remarks are a
detriment to the community.
By LAURE CIOFFI
VINDICATOR PENNSYLVANIA BUREAU
NEW CASTLE, Pa. — Lawrence County commissioners have called for the resignation of Ellwood City’s mayor after he talked publicly about racially inflammatory remarks he made to the city’s black police chief.
“The mayor’s comments regarding the use of the N word are revolting,” Commissioner Dan Vogler said referring to an article that appeared in Sunday’s Pittsburgh Post-Gazette chronicling the problems between Ellwood City Mayor Don Clyde and Richard McDonald, head of the borough’s police department. Ellwood City, with a population of about 8,000 people, is located at Lawrence County’s southern border.
Clyde is quoted in the article saying he used racial epithets when speaking to McDonald, but denies being a racist.
Tensions arose between Clyde and McDonald shortly after McDonald was hired last spring to head the police department. McDonald contends the mayor wanted another candidate to be hired for the job and in a meeting about a week after starting as police chief, Clyde tried to intimidate him by using racial epithets.
McDonald, 38, a former Pittsburgh homicide detective and an investigator for the Pennsylvania attorney general’s office, was hired by Ellwood City Borough Council in May 2007.
Before coming to Ellwood City, McDonald had not been working in law enforcement because of a back injury he suffered in an automobile accident. He was hired on the contingency that the state certify him again to work as a police officer.
His request has been denied, and McDonald intends to pursue the matter in court. Until that issue is resolved, Ellwood City Council has named McDonald the chief of operations for the police department.
The change came earlier this month after Clyde posted notices that officers should no longer report to McDonald because of the certification issue. Council received petitions with hundreds of resident signatures supporting McDonald and made the change.
Clyde, 76, a Democrat, is serving his first term as mayor and has two years left in that term. Clyde did not return calls to comment Tuesday.
Vogler, the only Republican county commissioner, was the first to call for Clyde’s resignation during the commissioners’ regular meeting Tuesday.
“Let someone else who has a 21st century mentality or even a 20th century mentality, serve in that capacity,” Vogler said. “I’m sick to my stomach over what I read.”
“One of the things we’ve tried to do as leaders is we’ve stressed what a great place Lawrence County is. It’s a great place to live, work and raise a family. When something like this happens, it’s a mark against all of us. There is no excuse,” Commissioner Rick DeBlasio said.
Chairman Steve Craig, board chairman, agreed.
“We support the people and council in Ellwood City [who stand by McDonald], but the mayor has got to go. There’s no place in free society for that type of thinking,” Craig said.