Norristown Municipal Council opened the agenda at Tuesday night's meeting to add a vote on making Deputy Police Chief Capt. Willie Richet the interim Chief of Police beginning March 1. The motion passed unanimously with 6 votes. (Councilwoman Mimi DeSouza was absent from the meeting.)
Capt. Richet is scheduled to retire alongside current Police Chief Russell Bono on Feb. 28, and will still technically be retiring and receiving his retirement and DROP benefits, but will hold the interim office until a permanent replacement can be found. According to Councilman Bill Caldwell, chair of the ad hoc search committee, the process could take up to six months. A salary for the position is still being negotiated.
Council President Gary Simpson noted that the move is a temporary stop-gap measure and that the search for a permanent replacement would continue.
"[Capt. Richet] cannot apply for the full-time position," added Simpson.
Some residents had previously expressed concern that appointing Capt. Richet interim chief openend the municipality up to legal action from Chief Bono, who reportedly would have had legal standing to contest his not being offered the same consideration. Chief Bono's separation agreement with the municipality, approved by council at the Jan. 7 council meeting, prohibits his bringing suit against the municipality.
Caldwell noted that council was sensitive to concerns about the DROP program and the appearance of special favors and noted that appointing Capt. Richet interim chief was a move they considered a positive one for the community.
"We wanted to make sure that people understand that we're not doing this to give a guy another crack at a position," said Caldwell.
Council still expects some officers within the department currently will apply for the position.
"One of the things Chief Bono did a good job at was preparing his people for bigger and better," said Caldwell. "I think he's done a really fine job with that."
The job posting for the position is expected to be advertised starting this week.
Norristown Patch announced the news of Capt. Richet's appointment via Facebook as it happened last night, prompting dozens of residents to offer congratulations and best wishes to Capt. Richet in his new role.
"Thank you everyone and believe me I will not let you down," Capt. Richet posted in response. "I will give my all. I thank God for Blessing me."
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