GIRARD - A city police officer who was aware of a party involving teens at his home last month has been suspended for 20 working days as part of a last-chance agreement.
According to the two-year agreement announced Thursday, any failure to adhere strictly to police department policies and procedures could result in Patrolman Larry Neely's immediate dismissal, Mayor Jim Melfi said.
"I believe this is a severe penalty, there is no question. He has 20 working days unpaid, and when you figure it out based on actual work days, that is almost a whole month without pay," Melfi said.
The mayor said the punishment is appropriate and fit the circumstances because it didn't stem from one incident but is a result of Neely's work history with the department and disciplinary record.
"He admitted that the incident and circumstances did occur. That does not mean he knew there was underage drinking or anything else illegal going on at the time. But this isn't just about that one party last month or other parties that might have taken place at his home. But simply knowing that his kids had a party at his home while he was on duty is not enough for dismissal. This is about a pattern of behavior. This incident has been added to past problems."
Neely, 39, became the subject of internal and criminal investigations after police raided a party at his Mosier Road home on Feb. 8. Several teens, ages 17 and 18, are facing misdemeanor charges. Neely, who was placed on paid leave, was cleared of criminal charges.
Internally he was accused of misfeasance, nonfeasance, dereliction of duty and failure to follow police department work rules - all of which he has been disciplined for in the past, according to police Chief Jeff Palmer.
City personnel records show that Neely, who was hired almost six years ago, has an extensive disciplinary history with the city police department. Officials said most of the problems have been related to job performance issues dating back to 2009.
He has been suspended without pay on several occasions for one, three and 10 days at a time.
Investigators found that several teen parties had been held at Neely's residence over the past six to eight months on a regular basis, Palmer said
A closed-door hearing last week included Neely and his union representative, Palmer, the city's safety service director and the city's attorney.
Neely declined to comment after that hearing. Attempts by a Tribune Chronicle reporter to reach him by telephone on Thursday were not successful.
Officials said the "last chance" agreement is a provision in the department's conduct code.