Ocean View residents gather, pray for town, police chief

Residents of Ocean View gathered prior to the town council meeting Tuesday, Sept. 9, to pray for town leaders amidst ongoing strife.

“We are concerned and caring citizens,” said Nancy Colella. “Ocean View is a wonderful place — we have to pray for it.”

About 10 people gathered in the gazebo behind town hall to pray, sing patriotic hymns and recite verses.

Colella recently sent out an e-mail inviting Ocean View citizens and the general public to attend the vigil, saying in the e-mail, “This will probably be the last time you will ever get the chance to stand up and speak on behalf of our beloved chief of police. The Citizen’s Privilege will be the time to stand up and voice your admiration/concern for ‘our town.’

“Chief McLaughlin has done an excellent job in Ocean View and we would like to keep him and all of his officers. The 24/7 police protection is a must in a crime-growing world. We need to fight for and support law enforcement.”

Concerns about McLaughlin’s tenure have abounded in the town for several months, with recent budget cuts primarily targeting the police department and McLaughlin’s contract with the town up for renewal this month, amid pressure to change his supervisor from the mayor to the town manager.

“Should you decide to stand up, we applaud you,” Colella wrote in her e-mail. “If not, please feel free to join us for a ‘Circle of Prayer’ before the meeting. We will join hands, circle the building and pray for our town. God won’t act until He hears from us.”

The council voted 3-2 on Tuesday not to hold a planned discussion of reconsidering a prior vote that approved the April hire of an outside attorney to review the police chief's contract for possible changes. Mayor Gordon Wood had proposed the reconsideration, saying he would like to retain the prior arrangement of having the police chief report to the mayor, instead of the town manager, as most recently championed by the three council members who voted against the reconsideration on Tuesday.

A special meeting of the council, with the public excluded from executive session discussion of personnel issues, is now set for Tuesday, Sept. 16, at 7 p.m. At the conclusion of that executive session, the council could take a vote related to the proposed changes to the police chief's contract. Colella and other supporters remained concerned this week that such changes could result in the chief's resignation as soon as Tuesday night.