Griffiths to retire as Shamokin police chief
SHAMOKIN - The city's police chief will submit his retirement papers today in a surprise move he confirmed Tuesday night.
Police Chief Ed Griffiths said he will hand over a retirement letter to city council during tonight's workshop session, and April 30 will be his last day on the job.
A member of the Shamokin Police Department for 22 years, Griffiths was appointed police chief in January 2010 by former Mayor George Rozinskie.
Griffiths admitted his retirement is a reluctant one. He's not exactly ready to stop being a police officer. He didn't elaborate much about why the timing is
right, but he did cite his relationship with Mayor William D. Milbrand with whom he's butted heads since the latter took office in January.
"The police department is moving in the wrong direction under his leadership," Griffiths said.
Milbrand was caught off guard when reached for comment. He hadn't heard of Griffiths' plans to step down and expressed disappointment in having not been informed directly.
He withheld any specific criticism, saying it wouldn't do any good for the city or the police department. He did say what he hoped for most from Griffiths was his cooperation.
"I am trying to take the city in a new direction. All I asked him for is to cooperate and do a few things that we asked him to do," he said. "If that's not getting along and butting heads, that's what it is."
The police chief's position is filled by appointment by the mayor alone and not by a vote of city council. At least the last three mayors all appointed a new police chief when they took office. Milbrand bucked the trend, keeping Griffiths as the city's top cop.
"It's kind of a shock to me. You can put in whatever you want, but I'm not going to bash him. I could have put another police chief in there," Milbrand said. "I really thought we could work our differences out, I really did."
Shamokin's rocky finances led to some of the discord between the mayor and the police chief.
When police officer furloughs were originally considered in December, four full-timers and two part-timers were in jeopardy. Two full-time officers and the two part-timers were eventually laid off when the budget was adopted that month.
Milbrand and the new council worked in January to recall the full-timers, both of whom were laid off less than one month before being recalled. One of the part-timers was recalled, too, and a vacant secretarial position at the department was also since filled.
But the city and the police union are also engaged in contract negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement. The old one expired at the end of 2013. Details are sparse on what both sides may be seeking, but it's not unlikely that the city would be seeking to maintain current salaries while union members would be looking to continue annual raises. Length of contract may also be at issue.
All things considered, Griffiths reached out to the city's pension administrator. He had told The News-Item earlier Tuesday that he was considering retiring but had to review his retirement package before committing one way or the other.
He hasn't formally announced his retirement to the city's officers but said some are aware of his intentions.
"They knew. I've been kicking it around here for a couple days," Griffiths said.
Milbrand said it's too soon to say who he will appoint to become the next police chief.