Panel agrees to $300,000 settlement to avoid possible lawsuits by senior police officials

Members of Dover’s City Council Monday night revealed former Mayor Carleton E. Carey resigned his office April 25 after evidence suggested he unduly influenced the selection of the new deputy chief of police.

Under the city charter, Dover’s mayor is the sole person charged with deciding the city’s top police officer, although he supposedly has no voice in filling other positions within the department.

Carey allegedly arranged for then-Lt. Marvin Mailey to be named deputy chief when he was selected Maj. Paul Bernat on March 25 to replace retiring Chief James E. Hosfelt.

Five of the department’s remaining senior officers − Capts. Rob Scott and Tim Stump and Lts. Dan McKeown, Jason Pires and J. Eric Richardson − almost immediately filed employee grievance complaints.

 Racial discrimination alleged

In the complaints, four of the officers alleged they were passed over for promotion because they are white, and that Mailey was selected because he is black. Pires, who described himself as biracial, also alleged he was discriminated against due to his ethnicity.

Bernat brought the grievances to council members, who conducted their own investigation and discussed the matter during four executive sessions in April and May.

Reading from a prepared statement, Council President David L. Bonar said, “City council reviewed the grievances and the facts and circumstances leading up to the selection of the new chief of police and the new deputy chief of police.

“That review raised serious questions about whether the former mayor − in contravention of the police department’s promotion policy − exceeded his authority and orchestrated a series of events to ensure then-Lt. Marvin Mailey would be elevated to the position of deputy chief of police.”

Carey denied the allegations, Bonar said.

However, faced with the investigative evidence and concerned about the city’s liability should the charges prove true, council asked Carey to resign.

Although Bonar said Carey resisted the idea of leaving office, he submitted his resignation on April 25 without admitting culpability.

Attempts to contact Carey at his home following the council meeting were not successful.

The ‘least worst option’

Council settled the grievance complaints with a negotiated agreement between the city, the officers and the Fraternal Order of Police, authorizing settlement payments to the officers totaling $300,000.

When appointed as chief, Bernat said he planned to serve only three years and then retire.

“That is still my intention,” he said Monday night. He could not discuss how Mailey was appointed deputy chief, “… out of fairness to the [settlement] agreement and to the former mayor.”

Mailey, who now is an acting captain pending attendance at a leadership and management school, retains his confidence, Bernat said.

“I absolutely support Marvin Mailey and his is fully capable of being deputy chief,” he said.

The chief said he was pleased to put the matter behind him, adding he did not think the issue would be a cloud over his administration.

“It was not easy coming in the way things happened,” Bernat said. “It’s been a very trying time for the staff officers, including myself, but they’ve been very supportive of me and professional about the whole situation.”

During the council meeting, Councilman David Anderson noted it would cost the city more to fight any prospective lawsuits than it would to agree to the settlement.

“It’s probably the best option we have available to us,” he said.

“I don’t think it’s the best option,” opined Councilman Tim Slavin. “I think it’s the least worst option.”

Bonar and City Solicitor Nick Rodriguez said the city probably cannot address the $300,000 payment through its insurance coverage, adding the money most probably will be figured into Dover’s FY 2015 budget.

Bonar asked council members and city residents not to judge Carey’s actions too harshly.

“He made a mistake,” Bonar said. “That doesn’t take away from the fact that he served this city for more than a half-century.”

Bonar added he stands behind the city’s law enforcement professionals.

“The police department and the police chief have the absolute and full support of myself as city council president and of my colleagues on the council,” he said.

Bernat noted he hoped the affair would not adversely affect how Dover residents view their police department.

“The Dover Police Department is a very professional department,” he said. “All of those officers care about their jobs, their professionalism and the city of Dover.

“Not once did they lose sight of that and I’m very proud of that.”