Cape Coral, Fla. -
Southwest Florida's largest city, is looking for a new police chief tonight. Cape Coral city council was supposed to vote Monday evening on whether current chief Jay Murphy would be allowed to stay on. But, there was a dramatic turn of events.Only three weeks ago it was revealed that the city had been working on a plan to keep Murphy on, even after he was supposed to retire, again. But, even after an expert said the plan was good it turns out that it wasn't.
"This one particular item has caused a great deal of emotion in this city. And I mean extremes on both sides," said councilman Marty McClain.
Murphy has been with the Cape Coral Police for 35 years. At the end of 30 years, he had the option to retire but he chose to stay and enter a five year program where his retirement was set aside. Then halfway through he was named chief.
At the beginning of this year he helped the city manager draft a proposal to keep him on as chief. That was supposed to be voted on Monday night but late last week the attorney for the pension program said Murphy couldn't even contribute to his own retirement if he stayed on. So, he decided to retire. "The frustrating part is there are those in the legal community who don't share his opinion," Murphy told city council. "The pension board has a fiduciary responsibility, that is their attorney of choice. They would probably be hard pressed to go against their legal opinion and who knows? Things happen for a reason".
Many wanted him to stay. "His last two and a half years of leadership has led the Cape Coral Police Department to be the finest level I've seen in my 18 years in the city," added Councilman Chris Chulakes-Leetz.
"The man has done a stellar job," echoed Councilman Marty McClain. "I mean, we've got a stellar individual here that we're going to allow, I guess, to leave".
The question the city manager and some on council were asking is, 'why did it take since the beginning of the year for this to be decided?' The Cape had hired an expert to evaluate it but his opinion was overturned by the pension program's attorney. "If the expert would have said, 'you know what, you can't do it' then I would have had eight months to find a replacement," said City Manager John Szerlag. "Then in the 11th hour we get told by those who we pay good money too or we trust their information and all of a sudden we all look like idiots when we find out we can't do it," added a frustrated McClain.
There was no discussion of whether a new chief will be from within or from outside the Cape Coral Police Department.