There are things one strongly believes and then there are things one can prove.
While I strongly believe the Blennerhassett Chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police filed suit against the Parkersburg mayor and police chief in a cheap, political stunt, I cannot prove it. But, if nothing else, the timing of the suit and contradictions by FOP personnel makes me more sure of it than not.
For several days, The News and Sentinel wanted to talk with Officer Chris Morehead, president of the FOP lodge, but he was unreachable due to his not having a listed telephone number or address. We even contacted his father, Dave Morehead, and asked him to request his son contact us, but the father cordially accused the newspaper of being in bed with Mayor Bob Newell and police Chief Joe Martin so he doubted his son would talk to us.
OK, let's look at some issues, Officer Morehead has made no secret of his dislike of Martin, who was appointed by Newell and confirmed by city council. Morehead, we have been told by others since he won't talk to us to give his side of the story, feels he was improperly removed from the police detective bureau and assigned as the PRO officer at Parkersburg High School, from which Martin removed him, placing him back on the street as a patrol officer. The reasons for the two changes of assignment were never publicly stated by the police department or city administration so those reasons could be publicly evaluated.
In an interview with WTAP-TV after Morehead's father walked a copy of the lawsuit to the TV station May 4, Morehead said the FOP membership authorized the filing of the suit on May 3. His wording made it sound as if the entire FOP membership overwhelmingly endorsed the lawsuit, yet several members of the FOP, including a trustee, a four-term past president, the police chief and others, had no knowledge of the suit or any vote taken to file it.
Then, a hastily called "emergency" FOP meeting was called for the afternoon of May 5 at which a purported 22 members of the lodge voted in a secret ballot to go forward with the suit that already had been filed. An attorney was named to handle the suit and all comments pertaining to the FOP action were directed to the attorney, who previously has represented police officers in issues against the city.
According to the FOP website, the lodge has "approximately 170 members," but an exact number cannot be determined since the FOP president cannot be contacted and the vice president directed all questions to the attorney. So if all 22 members at the emergency session voted for the continuation of the previoulsy filed lawsuit, that represents only 12.9 percent of the stated membership. Wow, I wouldn't exactly call that an overwhelming number.
The attorney originally agreed only to correspond via email, not in person where questions and follow-up questions could be asked. He later relented to a telephone interview and basically contended all questions would be answered in court.
The issue of the FOP lawsuit is little more than politics at its worst, especially considering the lodge endorsement of ex-police chief Gerald Board in the Democratic primary against ex-police chief and mayor Bob Newell. Of course, no vote count was ever given concerning the endorsement, which makes one wonder if it was the same 22 members who voted to continue the lawsuit.
The FOP is a valued and worthwhile organization, but one wonders if it's being driven down a political path instead of dealing with the welfare of its law enforcement members. One wonders if the FOP leadership's political antics brings discredit on the police department and the FOP. Some have even attributed Board's loss in the primary to the political timing of the FOP lawsuit.
Does Officer Morehead have a personal agenda in the process?
Is there a puppetmaster/instigator behind the curtain who has a personal, political hatred for Newell?
Let's hope with the primary election now over some of the mudslinging and what certainly should be considered dirty politics will come to a close ... but, sadly, I really doubt civility will return, especially if some of the behind-the-scenes instigators continue their politically disgusting tactics.