Amid controversy, new Liberty chief to hire officers
By Samantha Phillips
Former Capt. Toby Meloro stepped into his new role as interim police chief Monday, an appointment shrouded in controversy.
The trustees voted 2-1 – Trustee Jodi Stoyak cast the dissenting vote – for Meloro to replace former police Chief Richard Tisone after his retirement.
Last week, an internal police investigation revealed Meloro broke department policies while investigating the death of Loraine Lynn last year. The case, originally investigated by Meloro, is now being handled by Detective Sgt. Ray Buhala and the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation.
Meloro, who has served with the department since 1993, said he can’t comment on the internal investigation itself because it relates to a pending homicide case, and he doesn’t want to jeopardize it.
But, he says, “There’s two sides to every story. That’s what I hope people will remember.”
Despite the investigation, Meloro said morale throughout the department is excellent. “I think [our guys] will tell you it’s a new start, it’s an exciting time,” he said.
Melero is planning changes, starting with new personnel.
Trustee Arnie Clebone said trustees will vote at their regular meeting Thursday morning to hire two officers.
Meloro said they expect to have the officers sworn in by Judge Jeffrey Adler of Girard Municipal Court at 1:30 p.m. Thursday.
One officer will be a patrolman, and one will be a school resource officer for Liberty schools.
Through a partnership with the school district, Meloro said the township will pay 30 percent of the school resource officer’s salary and the school district will pay 70 percent. During the summer and on holidays, the SRO will work for the township, which Meloro calls a win-win situation.
Meloro said police are also working on a grant to fund a second resource officer for the school district.
Stoyak and township Fiscal Officer Steve Shelton said they were unaware of the incoming officers until they heard it in the news Monday. They share concerns about how the hires may affect the police department’s budget, which faces a potential deficit.
Meloro also said he plans to focus on community-policing tactics and on providing opportunities for the public to learn about and meet their local police.
“I want to see us building bridges. I want to see us active in the community,” he said.
Clebone, who said last week Meloro wouldn’t be disciplined after the report’s findings, said he is impressed by the new interim chief so far.
“We are looking forward to his leadership. I am hopeful and expecting he will do a great job for us,” Clebone said.
Meloro said he will do the best job he can for the community. “I love the people here. I always had a strong desire to serve,” he said.