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Sea Isle City chief likely to be fired, mayor says

SEA ISLE CITY - Suspended police Chief William Kennedy will face a departmental hearing in April, and the city expects it has enough evidence to fire Kennedy after the proceedings.
/ Source: The Press of Atlantic City

SEA ISLE CITY - Suspended police Chief William Kennedy will face a departmental hearing in April, and the city expects it has enough evidence to fire Kennedy after the proceedings.

"We're preparing for the hearing, and when it's all said and done, we're confident he will be terminated after the hearing," Mayor Leonard Desiderio said Wednesday.

Desiderio said the city has evidence Kennedy was using his cell phone and a city-issued computer for personal use, although he wouldn't say what evidence the city has.

Desiderio also asked City Council to adopt a policy forbidding employees to use city computers for personal use, a change suggested by Francis Cook, the city's independent investigator, which came from the investigation into Kennedy.

Kennedy and dispatcher Deborah Valentine were suspended without pay in December following allegations Kennedy's wife, Phyllis, made about her husband, including alleged improper use of a city-issued cell phone.

Valentine also faces a departmental hearing in April.

Before being suspended, Kennedy was the police chief and coordinator of municipal emergency management in Sea Isle City, earning $119,333, according to city documents.

Valentine was the senior public safety telecommunicator, earning $59,698, according to the city documents. As police chief, Kennedy was her boss.

In December, the city's independent investigator recommended the city fire Kennedy.

The Cape May County Prosecutor's Office is overseeing and monitoring the department following disciplinary measures pending against Kennedy and previous problems in the department.

Kennedy, who has repeatedly declined to comment on the investigation and the allegations against him, could not be reached Wednesday.

Valentine could not be reached.

Departmental hearings are scheduled to begin on April 21, according to City Solicitor Paul Baldini's office.

The city launched an investigation after the chief's wife of 20 years, Phyllis, filed a restraining order against her husband in October, and Kennedy subsequently filed one against his wife.

The restraining orders were removed in November after a closed-door Family Court proceeding, Phyllis Kennedy said at the time.

Desiderio said the city initially offered Kennedy a settlement, shortly after Kennedy's wife's allegations arose in October. Desiderio would not say what that proposed settlement entailed, but he said it has been withdrawn.

Phyllis Kennedy told The Press of Atlantic City that she found explicit text messages and a graphic photograph on her husband's city-issued cellular phone that came from the phone number of a female dispatcher working under Kennedy's supervision.

The city has refused formal requests to identify the departmental charges Kennedy and Valentine face, citing "to protect the confidentiality and due process of public employees generally and with respect to disciplinary matters," according to a letter from Baldini's office.

The letter referenced a request for information under the state Open Public Records Act.

Thomas Henry is the president of the Sea Isle City Taxpayers Association.

"Our position is we have paid for these investigations and we are entitled to know what the charges are," Henry said. "Whether they have to be held pending the resolution of the case or not is another issue, but at some point the public should have access to the investigator's report."

To e-mail Brian Ianieri at The Press: