City Council members and city staff typically don’t publicly address citizens’ concerns during the meeting, and that was the case Tuesday.
Birk, who has served the department for 27 years, including the last five as chief, was placed on paid administrative leave on Dec. 20 and escorted out of the City Building. He turned in his service weapon and badge.
He was placed on leave “pending further review of matters” related to his employment, according to a letter signed by Middletown City Manager Paul Lolli.
Lolli wrote in the last line of the letter, “This administrative leave is not a disciplinary action or adverse employment action.”
Deputy Chief Maj. Eric Crank is the acting police chief.
King said she sent letters to all five council members regarding Birk’s the discipline, and Mayor Elizabeth Slamka was the only one who answered.
“No response is a response to me,” King said.
She understood council couldn’t share details of the ongoing investigation or why Birk was placed on leave, she said.
Wise said while he’s never had any professional contact with Birk, he always sees him at community events, representing the police department.
“The chief looks at Middletown policing in the big picture,” said Wise, who called Birk “an asset to the town” and someone who has “done an excellent job.”
Magill called Birk a “consummate professional” who has earned the respect of his peers and the police department.
He asked council members to consider “every bit of character” before making a decision regarding Birk’s future as police chief.
Attorney Stephen Imm has told the Journal-News that Birk hasn’t done anything to merit any disciplinary action. He said they’re in talks with the city about the reasons it placed Birk on leave and trying to “find a solution to it.”
The attorney said he is unaware of any criminal allegations against Birk. He added as far as he knows the investigation into the issue is being conducted internally, but he is unsure by whom.
All five council members, when contacted by the Journal-News, have said they can’t comment on personnel issues.
The Journal-News has received a copy of Birk’s personnel file and is reviewing the hundreds of pages of documents from his 27-year career.
Birk was immediately suspended from any and all work duties, according to the letter. He was instructed to relinquish city keys and fobs, his service weapon and police officer badge, passwords and codes. He was also instructed not to communicate with other city employees during normal work hours, remain at home and provide (the city) with a phone number where he can be reached immediately during work hours.