By KEVIN CHIRI
Tammany West news
COVINGTON – The prospect for a long, drawn out public show in the Covington police chief case has been avoided after former Chief Richard Palmisano withdrew his Civil Service appeal for his firing by Mayor Mike Cooper.
“Mr. Palmisano felt like he served the people of Covington well and decided to get on with his personal life,” attorney Eric Hessler said. “He didn’t want to drag this thing out for a long time and decided to drop the entire matter.”
Hessler said that Palmisano, 68, has no plans to file any kind of civil suit for the firing.
Cooper and Palmisano have had their differences ever since the new mayor took office in 2011. But despite charges that he had been looking for a reason to get rid of Palmisano, Cooper said the firing was a culmination of too many instances of problems in the department, where he did not trust the chief and the decisions he made.
“If I had not fired Richard Palmisano, I would have been derelict in my duties as the mayor of Covington,” Cooper said. “There was a level of mistrust I had with the chief and after the last incident, you wonder how much more of this we can take.”
Cooper noted that when he ran for mayor, leading up to the April, 2011 election, all three candidates talked about problems in the Covington Police Department and a need for changes. Cooper was the only candidate who publicly said he would fire the chief to get a fresh start.
The mayor said he was told by Palmisano that he would resign if Cooper was elected.
“During the campaign the chief indicated he would resign if I won,” Cooper said. “And after I won, I went to him again and did ask him respectfully to resign.
“I told him I would give him time to step aside, but a week later, he sent me an e-mail and said he decided he wouldn’t resign,” Cooper said.
The mayor said the change in heart by Palmisano “broke the trust” they had with each other.
“I’ve got to trust the people working for the city and from that point on, there was a level of mistrust,” Cooper said. “However, I absolutely had no vendetta against him at the beginning or at the end. I was simply doing what was best for the people of Covington.”
From the beginning of Cooper’s term, after that rocky start, the pair continued to have their issues with each other, leading to the firing of Palmisano over a month ago.
The decision by Cooper to fire Palmisano followed the third incident in just over two years by Covington police officers.
The most recent case involved two officers charged with simple battery and malfeasance in office, accused of using excessive force in an arrest. Previous to that, an officer pled guilty in Dec., 2011 to simple battery for choking a citizen. And in April, 2011, an officer was charged with roughing up a businessman at a Mardi Gras parade, which led to his resignation in April, 2012.
Cooper said he tried to work with Palmisano and in January, 2012, gave Palmisano a letter of counseling, which detailed the steps needed to correct things in the department. For a while, the mayor said, it appeared things were improving.
“I wanted a police department that was responsive to the citizenry, but I kept getting asked by people to get rid of him in light of the problems we kept having,” Cooper said. “For a while things were going well, but then we had the latest problem.”
After the firing, Hessler sent the Civil Service Board a letter, asking for an appeal hearing, which had tentatively been set for June 19. But last week Hessler withdraw his request for the appeal, “officially closing the case,” according to Civil Service Board Chairman Joey Cacioppo.
Cooper said he expects a minimum of 10 applicants for the job and plans to appoint a new chief within a few months. As a Civil Service job, any applicants must go through a board test for the position.
Capt. Jack West is currently serving as interim chief and will also have to take the police chief test if