The West Deptford Township committee voted unanimously Thursday to drop the conditional tag from Acting Chief Samuel DiSimone’s title.
Committee Democrats forced a motion on the issue before a strong police presence in the audience, and not without a lively confrontation between Mayor Ray Chintall and Committeewoman Denice DiCarlo.
More than conscious of the number of lawmen ringing the walls of the room, Chintall tried to get in front of the topic in his opening remarks, during which he asked for the committee to support a closed-session discussion of DiSimone's appointment at the next government meeting.
“I am conducting an evaluation of the West Deptford police department to ensure that the way the department was run under Chief [Craig] Mangano will be the same as it is running forward,” Chintall said at the outset.
“As mayor and public safety director, it’s under my control.”
A review period might be “something that was not done in the past,” the mayor said, but added that he wanted to “just reassure those that are standing against the wall” that they “don’t read anything more into it than it actually is.”
'Why the stall?'
DiCarlo countered that Mangano had laid the groundwork for continuing his legacy by recommending DiSimone in his outgoing letter.
“There is an established process that’s been in here,” DiCarlo said. “I have the outgoing chief’s resignation letter, and he respectfully asks that this promotion be carried out at the next township committee meeting, which was September 5.
“Why the stall?” she asked. “What is missing right now that an interview process is going to gain us?”
The crowd rumbled, and Chintall repeated himself.
“As I said to the chief several times, I’m just evaluating the police department to make sure it runs as efficiently and effectively as it was under Chief Mangano,” he said.
“With all due respect,” DiCarlo said, “We need a leader. There’s been a change of leadership, we need a leader.”
The two carried on back and forth, with Chintall reminding DiCarlo that his prior police experience qualified him to judge the very technical requirements of operating the department.
“I’m not sure that anything you said gives any justification for waiting another session and then interviewing him,” DiCarlo said.
“What are we going to get that we don’t have right now?”
The room exploded into applause. After it died down, Committeeman Sam Cianfarini spoke up.
“Mayor, I’ve had two meetings with the acting chief, and I feel that I’m prepared for action,” he said. “However, I don’t know that the rest of the committee has had that opportunity.”
“I’m prepared to motion right now,” DiCarlo said, her words broken up by a loud ovation from the crowd.
“—the appointment of Sparky DiSimone as police chief—”
“Recess for five minutes, thank you,” said Chintall, banging his gavel.
Before the group could depart, and with the room loudly murmuring, Committeewoman Donna Szymborski made DiCarlo repeat her nomination, which she loudly seconded, to more applause.
At that point, Chintall broke for the door. The remaining committee members stayed behind at the dais, and the rest of the crowd milled about until the mayor returned.
After the brief break, township clerk Amy Leso read the committee members’ names in a roll call vote. First up was Cianfarini.
“Yes,” he said. “Congratulations, Sparky.”
DiSimone received a standing ovation from a room that took some time to quiet down.
'It's a shame that it had to come to this'
During the public comment portion of the meeting, former West Deptford Police Chief Joseph Butts singled out DiCarlo and Szymborski for bringing the motion forward.
“I want to thank you for doing the right thing tonight,” he said. “It’s a shame that it had to come to this,” he said.
Butts described how prior township committees, both Republican and Democrat, have honored a longstanding process of promoting the acting chief based on the recommendation of the outgoing chief, “and there’s been a smooth transition of leadership from one chief to the next.”
“I think the rumors that have been circulating the past month sends a bad message to the community and a bad message to your police department,” Butts said.
“We deserve better,” he said, indicating “the former chiefs, police officers, past and present” in attendance.
They included James Mehaffey and Mangano, who offered his confidence in DiSimone formally advancing to assume the full rank of chief.
"A chief makes a recommendation and hopes that that recommendation does go forward," Mangano said.
"I’m happy that Deputy Chief DiSimone was appointed tonight, and I’m just happy that the police department can now move forward in the direction of the new chief.
"He can put it behind him and move it forward."
DiSimone is expected to be sworn in formally at the next meeting of the West Deptford township committee.
The move should also clear the way for Lt. Sean McKenna to advance to the Deputy Chief position.