City officials in District Heights, embroiled in a controversy over their decision to fire the police chief, tried to put the dispute to rest last week by appointing an acting chief and filling a long-vacant City Commission seat.
Glen R. Sivils, a city officer, was appointed acting chief. He had served under Chief Charles T. Carlson, whom the commissioners voted to fire May 24.
That dismissal was linked by some supporters of the chief with the arrest of the son of Commissioner Monroe Chew IV on a drug charge, but Chew said at the time that the dismissal had nothing to do with the circumstances of his son's arrest. Carlson, who served for eight years, left his post Aug. 10.
At the commission's Aug. 5 meeting, about 50 angry citizens showed up with protest signs and a 30-foot-long petition signed by 500 persons. It stated: "We deplore the mayor's 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 firing of Carlson was in part responsible for the appointment last week of a new commissioner, the youngest in the city's history. James P. Conroy Jr., 27, joined the commission to fill the seat left vacant when William E. Hay was elected mayor, said city clerk Geraldine Brewer.
Conroy was considered to be the compromise candidate for those in the community who supported the firing of Carlson and those who did not. The seat remained vacant during the dispute over Carlson's dismissal.
Former mayor David H. Goldsmith, who led support for Carlson and helped organize opposition to the government, said he regarded Conroy as "neutral." He said residents are considering organizing a political unit to contest the city commission's handling of various issues.
The two other candidates for the commissioner post were John Ruffatto, a Capitol Police sergeant, who said he supported the city board and its actions, and E. Kathleen (Kitty) Shoap, a former commissioner who lost her seat in the May election. Shoap was one of Carlson's principal supporters.
Carlson's attorney negotiated a 60-day extension for the chief that ended Aug. 10. Carlson could not be reached for comment on his future early this week.