Craig Novick accepts job as Port St. Lucie Police Chief

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - Craig Novick, who withdrew his bid for police chief Tuesday, has changed his mind and accepted the position, confirmed city spokesman Ed Cunningham.

Cunningham said Novick informed the city about a half hour ago.

Novick, township manager of Franklin, N.J., initially denied the bid saying Mayor JoAnn Faiella had inappropriately interfered in the chief selection process.

In a letter to Oravec on Thursday, Novick wrote:

"The last few days, I was honored by all the phone calls and emails from citizens all across Port St. Lucie asking for me to reconsider. I also had comprehensive conversations with members of the city council and the city manager.

"I am now ready and extremely energized to serve the citizens of Port St. Lucie and work side by side with our police officers to raise the bar and ensure excellence in public safety.

"I am proud to now be part of the community and eager to bring the Port St. Lucie Police Department to the highest levels of success.

"My doors will always be open to each and every citizen. I am committed to always improving the quality of life. It is my honor and privilege to be part of Team Port St. Lucie."

Novick told City Manager Greg Oravec at noon Tuesday he decided to withdraw his bid after Faiella called members of his township council questioning his abilities to negotiate with the police unions.

Faiella said Tuesday she did call Novick's bosses, as well as supervisors for the other two chief candidates, but only after she told and received approval from Oravec and City Attorney Roger Orr. She said the reason for the calls to Franklin officials was solely to discuss Novick's track record of working with his township council before she could give her final recommendation to Oravec.

Novick said he thought these phone calls violated the city's charter.

Novick, 49, said he heard about Faiella's calls hours before Oravec called him and sent him an employee contract for the chief's position. Novick said he and Oravec discussed his start date and when he would undergo certification training.

City officials said there was no violation of the city charter and the mayor was within her right to make inquiries.

According to the city charter, the mayor is a voting member of the city council and appointed with the advice and consent of the council. The mayor shall be recognized as head of the city government for all ceremonial purposes, but has no administrative duties.

The charter also states the mayor and city council cannot interfere with administration matters nor give orders to city officers or employees unless it's through the city manager. The city charter gives the city manager the power to appoint, suspend or remove city employees and appointed administrative officers.

"I have a right as mayor to interview them," said Faiella, who added she made the calls before she knew who Oravec had selected as chief.

This isn't the first time Faiella has been accused of meddling in police affairs. Former Police Chief Donald Shinnamon accused Faiella of being behind his December 2010 firing. He has alleged Faiella threatened to fire former City Manager Jerry Bentrott if he didn't fire Shinnamon. Shinnamon had laid off two dozen police officers, which caused friction between him and the unions. An FDLE investigation cleared Faiella of any wrongdoing.

Before her election in November 2010, Faiella worked at the Police Department as a community service aide, a crime intelligence analyst and a records specialist. She was heavily backed by the unions during her campaign.

Novick will replace former Chief Brian Reuther. Reuther retired at the end of May after almost 32 years with the Police Department.

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