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Settling Police Chief Dispute

Village bylaws in Bethesda probably ought to be changed, to judge by a standoff over appointing a new police chief. Accomplishing that would take months, however. The battle over a new police chief needs to be resolved sooner, not later.

It has gone on since December. Then, village council members agreed to name Pete Busack as chief — but only on a six-month probationary basis. Some on council had expressed reservations about him.

In July, after the six months had expired, Mayor Samantha Burkhead recommended Busack be terminated, not given the chief’s position on a permanent basis. She explained she feels Busack has made veiled threats to her and some council members.

Nothing was resolved in July, after council deadlocked on Burkhead’s recommendation, in a 3-3 vote.

The matter came up again last week, with council members again in disagreement over Busack. The issue never came to a vote, however.

Councilwoman Cindy Foose moved to promote Busack to chief. Councilman Jordan Costello seconded the motion, but action on it stopped there.

It seems Bethesda’s bylaws state that in matters related to a police chief, no vote can be taken unless the mayor makes a recommendation. Burkhead did not make one last week.

So there the matter stands. Obviously, allowing any mayor to block a vote on something as important as a police chief is not a good idea. At some point, Bethesda’s bylaws should be changed.

For now, however, Burkhead’s failure to make a recommendation, one way or the other, means council cannot address the matter.

It needs to be settled without more months of uncertainty. During council’s next regular meeting, Burkhead should make a recommendation so council members can vote on a police chief.

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