About 50 angry District Heights citizens bearing signs and a 30-foot-long petition went to a city commissioners' meeting last night to demand reconsideration of the firing of town Police Chief Charles T. Carlson.
The meeting was punctuated by shouting matches between the commissioners and members of the audience. At one point, District Heights resident Harold Goldsmith challenged newly elected Mayor William E. Hay by shouting: "Why are you so afraid to tell us what's going on? Just what have you got to hide? You haven't got the guts! You haven't got the guts to answer!"
Hay ignored Goldsmith.
Without explanation, the commission voted May 24 to fire Carlson from the job he has held for eight years. The three commissioners and mayor, after criticism from angry residents at a June meeting, negotiated with the chief's attorney, Benjamin Wolman, and agreed to extend his job 60 days, which run out next Wednesday.
The agreement provides that there shall be no discussion of the background of the firing, but last night the chief said he never signed the agreement and thus was not bound by any ban on discussion. He and residents asked commission members to explain the firing.
Two weeks before Carlson was fired, two of his officers arrested Monroe Chew V, 23, son of Commissioner Monroe Chew IV, on a charge of possession with intent to distribute PCP. His trial is set for Sept. 27.
The chief and his clerk, Elizabeth Haymans, said Commissioner Chew told Carlson, "You haven't heard the last of this" when Carlson refused to use his infuence to release the son's car, which had been impounded by Prince George's County police at nearby Allen's Arco.
Commissioner Chew denied making or implying any threats and said the chief's firing had nothing to do with his son's arrest.
Last night, Allen Young, owner of the Arco station, unexpectedly showed up at the meeting and announced that the commissioners had rebid the towing contract he has held the past eight years and given him one day's notice to submit his bid. He said he was underbid by two dollars.
Commissioner Chew then said the reassignment of the towing contract also had no connection with his son's arrest.
The taped-together petition which the citizens said was signed by nearly 500 of the town's 6,700 residents, said: "We deplore the mayor and commissioners' refusal to fully inform the residents of the city as to the specific reasons for the chief's dismissal. . . and express our lack of confidence in the newly elected mayor and commissioners to govern fairly in the interests of all city residents."
The petition asks the commissioners to grant the chief another 60-day extension, take a performance evaluation and meet with a committee that includes at least two city residents before deciding whether to continue his employment.
Mayor Hay said repeatedly that he could not comment on the chief's dismissal because it was a personnel matter but said he would "take the petition under advisement."
Former commissioner Woodrow Wilson said: "What you are all doing is ridiculous. Has this man Carlson done anything in the past eight years that he should be thrown out of his job? What did he do?"
"I will not tell you," said Hay.