Mortillaro's rejection of candidate upsets PVPD officers
New PV Town Manager Anthony Mortillaro's efforts to include personnel in choosing a new fire chief appear to have backfired, at least for now.
Mortillaro rejected all three candidates brought by two independent review boards last month.
One of the repercussions of that decision is a police department left questioning the new Town Manager's understanding of law enforcement needs. Many PVPD officers are displeased with Mortillaro's decision, especially as they thought they had found the ideal police chief candidate in Mesa PD Commander Dan Sabin.
"The Town Manager really blew his credibility with the police department," said one veteran officer who asked not to be identified. "He really distanced himself with this decision."
"This appointment is very critical for Prescott Valley," Mortillaro said. "I don't want to talk about any individual candidate, but there were certain things I was uncomfortable with."
Following the May retirement of former police chief Ed Seder, the Town received 49 applications for his position. Mortillaro and Town Human Resources Manager Barbara Hansen reviewed all 49 applications and narrowed those choices down to seven.
Mortillaro convened two separate boards to interview the seven candidates. One board was composed of two Prescott Valley Police Department sergeants and four officers. On the second panel were DPS Assistant Director Rod Covey; Chandler PD Chief Bobby J. Harris; Glendale PD Chief Dave Dobrotka ; and PV Community Development Director Richard Parker.
"Getting these top law enforcement administrators interested shows the quality of Prescott Valley PD," said Sergeant Wayne Nelson, a member of the PVPD board. "I was really honored to be a part of the selection process. It was awesome to listen to these candidates talk."
Mortillaro said in a May interview that he has previously used the two-board process in other towns.
"It's important to involve the employees in the process, to get their input, and to involve an external panel," Mortillaro said.
Both boards independently interviewed the seven candidates, and each came up with the same number one candidate, Dan Sabin, a Commander in the Mesa Police Department.
"Not only was he number one, he was head and shoulders above all the rest," said one officer who sat on the PVPD selection board.
Yet Mortillaro eliminated Sabin, as well as the other candidates recommended by the two boards.
"Even these law enforcement professionals realize this is a key appointment," Mortillaro said. "There are factors beyond law enforcement experience that I must consider. I have to look at how a candidate will fit into the community, and see what strengths they can bring to the organization. Among the candidates I reviewed, there were some things in the interviews I was uncomfortable with."
Mortillaro also said he disapproved of Sabin holding a meeting with PVPD officers prior to his interviews.
"I think that was very inappropriate," he said.
In a telephone interview last Friday, Sabin said he met, not only with officers, but with all the community leaders he could contact, except for Town Councilmen and Mortillaro.
"I talked with everybody, not just officers. I talked with fire chiefs, (HUSD Assistant Superintendent) Rod Cordes, the Prescott PD chief, Community Development people - I met with Ed Seder for two hours," Sabin said. "I was researching the community because I want to live in the community. I wanted to understand the issues and resources available there. A couple of people wanted to complain about issues, but I said, 'No, let's talk about the future.' When I was done, I was the only applicant that brought an action plan to the interview.
"Apparently, that meeting just touched Tony wrong. I wouldn't have done that if I'd known it was political suicide. I think he believes I had some hidden agenda, but that isn't true. I wasn't sneaking around; I held that meeting in the open, and off-site from the police department. The three chiefs on the one board said they thought it was great idea. Rod Cordes thanked me for caring, and said he wished school district candidates would do the same thing," Sabin said.
In the end, Sabin said, he never received a clear explanation from Mortillaro for his elimination, so he is left with conjecture.
"I think I intimidated him. I'm very passionate about my work, even a little aggressive," he said. "Maybe he just doesn't understand the magnitude of Mesa PD. I have 75 people working directly for me in my department, more than on the entire Prescott Valley police force. I have an annual budget of $5 million. I have 24 years of experience.