Mahoning Township is one signature away from having a full-time police chief as supervisors voted Wednesday evening to offer the top cop position to Officer-in-Charge Audie Mertz.
The appointment becomes effective as soon as Mertz signs a letter of agreement with the municipality.
Mertz has been overseeing the department since former Police Chief Kenneth Barnes was placed on medical leave and then resigned from the township amid much controversy a little over one year ago.
Supervisors briefly convened an executive session to discuss personnel matters in between their regular business meeting or their workshop meeting. While Chairperson John Wieczorek was not present for the business meeting, he entered during the executive session and was immediately shown into the supervisors' meeting room along with Mertz.
The workshop meeting convened and during the police committee report, Wieczorek said, "I want to offer a pair of motions," and then made a motion to sign Mertz to be the police chief pending his signature on the letter of agreement.
Supervisor Shawn Haggerty seconded the motion and the board voted 4-0 in support with Supervisors Franklin Ruch and Bruce Steigerwalt concurring.
Supervisor Kerry Verrastro was absent from the meeting.
Once the first motion passed, Wieczorek made a second motion to elevate part-time officer Cory Frey to full-time status with a three-month probation period pending the acceptance of the chief's position by Mertz.
This motion also passed on a 4-0 vote.
This appointment brings to an end the two-year flux the Mahoning Township police department has been in since Barnes left active duty and sued the township and several supervisors in a case that was settled last summer.
Mertz, a longtime officer in the department, has been active in the technology initiatives not only with the police department but also helped the township upgrade its computers last year as well.He was named the officer-in-charge of the department since Barnes left and has been overseeing the police department for almost two years.
Solicitor Tom Nanovic said Mertz's salary for 2014 will be calculated when he signs the agreement, and pro-rated from that agreement date until the end of the first year.
Contacted this morning, township secretary Natalie Haggerty said the salary for Mertz has not yet been set.
At the time of his resignation, Haggerty said Barnes was paid $59,000 as chief of police.