Solicitor, York police chief settle differences

YORK -- A truce has been made between York Police Chief Bill Mobley and Solicitor Kevin Brackett.

In a jointly-written letter to The Herald dated Nov. 8 and signed by both parties, Brackett and Mobley stated they had a chance to hear each other's side and "any questions as to the competency or commitment of the solicitor's office or York Police Department have been resolved." The letter comes after more than a month of animosity between Brackett and Mobley regarding the solicitor's decision to lower or drop charges in several York crimes.

It further states that cases were handled appropriately by the solicitor's office, a stark contrast to Mobley's previous accusations that Brackett was acting more like a defense attorney than prosecutor.

Brackett said Friday he decided to meet with Mobley after the chief expressed his desire for more communication at Tuesday's City Council meeting, where Brackett addressed the cases before the council. They met Thursday at Brackett's office.

"Once we were able to sit down and discuss the issues, I was able to share with him some of the reasoning behind some of those cases and discuss with him those issues," Brackett said. "I think the matter resolved itself."

Different points of view

Mobley said after the meeting it became evident they have been looking at the cases from two different perspectives. Both offices are busy and often communication has been poor, he said.

"We agreed to work on these things and try to resolve any differences and misunderstandings and move forward," Mobley said.

The conflict went too far and lasted too long, he said.

"They need our office, and we need their office," Mobley said. "We both have to do the same thing and that's serve the public and provide justice for the victims of crimes."

The tension between the solicitor's office and York officials started Oct. 1 when Mayor Eddie Lee wrote a letter expressing concerns he'd heard from police about cases against violent youths not being prosecuted. Brackett said he was not aware of the problems and emphasized the need for strong evidence from police. He asked for specific concerns, and Lee later presented him with a 44-page list of cases with charges that were dropped or reduced. Fifty-four cases were highlighted by police.

The relationship soured in mid-October when Brackett said the York Police Department botched the investigation of the Sept. 11 gang-related killing of Dawud Chester and called for the State Law Enforcement to join the investigation. Mobley fired back by saying the solicitor's office aided York police with the investigation and the chief asked for the state attorney general's office to try the case.

The attorney general's office will determine if the case can be brought before a state grand jury after SLED's investigation, which is still active.

Out of hand?

On Tuesday, Brackett came to the York City Council meeting to offer his explanation on how each case was handled. He told the council there isn't time to try all cases in court and that having people plead is often a better use of resources.

As Brackett started going through the cases, Councilman Charles Johnson stopped him.

"I wonder how this got so far out of hand," Johnson said.

The council and Brackett both expressed their wish that the conflict had stayed out of the media.

"Nobody gains from negative publicity," Lee said. "We need to move on, and we need to get along. I'm pledging to you that that's my goal."

Lee and Brackett discussed how the situation had been handled after the concerns were initially made public. Mobley then got up and said Brackett never made an attempt to talk with him about the cases.

Brackett disputed the remark.

Then, Lee intervened and said council had other things that needed to be addressed. Brackett didn't get to explain the rest of the cases before leaving frustrated.

When Mobley and Brackett met Thursday, they decided it was time to put up a unified front. In the letter, they said they were dismayed Lee's letter had been made public.

"I think it took a dispute that could have easily been handled privately to an unnecessary level of controversy and contentiousness," Brackett said Friday.

Lee said he made his Oct. 1 letter public because he believes in the First Amendment. The council granted permission during a public meeting to write the letter, and the public had a right to see it based on the Freedom of Information Act, Lee said.

The letter was not meant to be a critique of anyone, but simply a request for explanation and more communication, Lee said. He said the letter was not as "blunt" as the media had described it.

Lee said he's glad to see the two sides have resolved their differences.

"They need to be on the same team," he said. "Everybody feels that."