Francis Randolph Celia is a District of Columbia police officer whose career ambition, according to his father, has been to practice his trade in Prince George's County, where his family lives.
Although Celia did not score high enough on the county police examinations to be accepted the first and only time he took the tests, his dream soon may be realized -- in part because of family friends in high places, including County Executive Lawrence Hogan.
In the year since Hogan became county executive, no prospective police recruit has received more attention than Frank Celia, whose mother worked with Hogan in the FBI for 10 years and helped the politician during his congressional campaigns.
According to past and present leaders of the county police department, Hogan and his aides have for the last year lobbied vigorously for Celia, pressuring them with letters, memos and telephone calls urging that Celia be given an immediate lateral transfer from the District to Prince George's. b
At first, during the period when John W. Rhoads was still the police chief, police officials flatly rejected Hogan's lobbying for Celia, saying that his scores were too low. Then, after Rhoads retired in June, county policed personnel standards were changed so that recruits who had taken the tests previously were given a preferred standing.
The police officials changed their position on Celia accordingly. They told Hogan that Celia could now be considered for a job if the county executive authorized a complete class of transfer candidates. Hogan had opposed such a class earlier, according to police officials, citing budget restraints, but this time he gave the go-ahead. The transfer class was authorized, with Celia in line to be selected as one of 20 candidates.
It was a bargain of convenience for the police department, according to one high-ranking official, who said: "If we could get 20 or 21 men at the sake of one, that's all that interests me."
Hogan's former key police aide, John E. k (Jack) McHale, who last week was named acting police chief by his boss, said it was just a coincidence that the transfer recruit class was authorized precisely when Celia would be eligible for it.According to McHale, the class was deemed necessary because of a number of unexpected resignations from the force over the last year.
Of Celia, McHale said: "This happens to be his dream in life. Mr. Hogan was very impressed with him."
The protracted struggle to get Celia a possible slot on the Prince George's force began, according to former chief Rhoads, when Celia's father contacted him "at least two times" last year asking how his son could get a transfer.
Celia's father, John J. Celia, denied yesterday that he ever contacted Rhoads.
By Rhoad's recollection however, one of the times Celia's father contacted him was after Hogan's election as county executive. According to Rhoads, Celia's father said that as a campaign contributor, he expected that his son would be hired.
Although Rhoads rebuffed the requests from Celia's father, McHale, Hogan's senior aide in charge of police relations, asked Rhoads if there was any way to get Celia hired.
Rhoads also received a letter for Hogan last April enthusiastically recommending Celia for the county force, and asking if there was any way that "his transfer can be arranged."
Rhoads says he told McHale repeatedly that Celia's test scores were not high enough to qualify him among those eligible to be hired. A candidate must score 70 or higher to pass the county's test, according to police officials. Celia's score, sources said, was in the 70's, below most of those who passed.
In a recent interview, Rhoads recalled a meeting in McHale's office in Upper Malboro earlier this year at which McHale discussed several subjects with him, and then said: "Here's the biggie," and went on to say that Hogan wanted Celia hired.
In June, Rhoads retired, and was replaced by acting county police chief Joseph Vasco. Informed sources said that Vasco aslo received numerous phone calls from McHale asking if Celia could be hired.
During one call, according to sources, Vasco told McHale: "Listen, Jack, you get me the class, we'll hire the guy."
McHale confirmed that he had talked with Rhoads and Vasco about hiring Celia.
Until last summer, according to high-ranking police officials, the department had reportedly been turned down by Hogan and his aides in their request for hiring more officers. Then the department was hit by a steady stream of retirements as a result of changes in pension and disability retirement regulations, and the department renewed its requests for more officers.
The class was soon authorized.
"We were always told, [there was] not enough money. All of a sudden, overnight, it changed," said one police official.
The transfer class, according to police officers, will start in the next few months, lasting about 10 weeks, with about 20 police recruits, and will cost the county about $100,000 in salaries and equipment for the new officers. The cost will increase when the officers get their cars.
Celia will be one of the new recruits unless he fails his background checks. In October, he got a special boost when McHale sent then acting-chief Vasco a personal note and six pages of material for Celia's personnel file, including several commendations.
Contacted yesterday, Frank Celia said he was unaware of any political maneuvering to get him hired.
"I'm just a regular applicant like everyone else," he said.