Friday, February 17, 2006

Police Chief Will Fight Leave

Police Chief Edward Santiago will seek monetary damages for being placed on administrative leave because the action was “illegal” and “retaliatory,” his attorney, Todd Shea, said Thursday (Feb. 16, 2006).

Shea said Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs placed Santiago on administrative leave with pay Tuesday (Feb. 14, 2006) shortly after he refused to replace Police Division personnel with people who did not meet the criteria for the positions.

The reason cited for the leave was that the chief had a lawsuit pending against the city, but Shea said the lawsuit was filed in August 2005. Robinson-Briggs took office Jan. 1 and did not make an issue of it until this week.

A promised press release on the issue was still not available Thursday from the mayor’s office.

In his 2005 lawsuit, Santiago did not seek damages but just a clearing of his name related to a disciplinary charge in June 2002. He filed the suit after making numerous attempts to settle the matter with the city. He alleged defamation as well as violation of his rights to free speech and due process.

The administrative leave will be in effect until the lawsuit is finished, Shea said, which could be many weeks.

“It’s just getting started,” Shea said. “It could be a good couple of months.”

Santiago has more than 30 years’ service with the Plainfield Police Division. He was named chief in April 1999.

Police union leader Andre Crawford said Robinson-Briggs wants to put more officers on the street, but he said Santiago is putting more officers in clerical positions. Crawford supported Robinson-Briggs in her mayoral campaign last year as she promised a different approach to crime.

Asked who will replace Santiago while he is on leave, Crawford said, “The last I heard, it was the director,” referring to acting Public Safety Director Martin Hellwig. Officials could not confirm Thursday who was in charge. One of Santiago’s contentions is that he has the right to name the person who will be in charge of day-to-day operations while he is on leave.

Shea said of the mayor’s action Tuesday, “It does not make any sense at all.”

--Bernice Paglia

KEYWORDS: police


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