Port St. Lucie police chief search: Back to square one

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - Port St. Lucie city officials are continuing in their search for a new police chief, after the candidate favored by the city manager withdrew his candidacy.

Greg Oravec, city manager, thought he had the newest member of "Team Port St. Lucie" in place.  He felt Craig Novick was the best choice for chief of police. "He holds the same core values that I hold most dear," explained Oravec, about his top pick.

But Tuesday, Novick withdrew his name from consideration. He said he did not have the support of Mayor Joann Faiella, and that she inappropriately interfered with the selection process. "I got the vibe that the mayor did not want me," said Novick.

Mayor Faiella has defended her actions. She maintained she did nothing wrong. Roger Orr, city attorney, said there were no charter violations. Oravec said he did not want to comment about Mayor Faiella's actions.

"I can't comment on that, because I want to maintain the utmost in professionalism," said Oravec. "But that's a conversation that we're going to need to have."

According to the city charter, Oravec has the final say on hiring a new chief. When asked if he felt his job was in jeopardy, he first said "no comment", but went on to say he is employed by the council.

"What that boils down to is that on a council with five members, it takes three of them to fire me," Oravec said.

Oravec said his recent overhaul of the police department is starting to bear fruit. Port St. Lucie has 20+ new officers on the street for the same dollars as last year, and they are actively recruiting new officers.  But as for who will permanently lead them, the city manager still hasn't given up hope on his preferred choice.

Oravec hopes that by next week, he'll have the next steps planned in the search for a new police chief.

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