Mo. chief's suspension confounds residents

By Valerie Schremp Hahn ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH

MOSCOW MILLS The new mayor of Moscow Mills has suspended the city's police chief, and residents rallying around the chief want to know why.

Mayor Larry Coy refused to give details as to why he suspended Chief Steve Runge, who was appointed in 2002. Runge says Coy, who was elected two weeks ago, told him residents and business owners want a new chief.

"A decision has been made by the Board of Aldermen," Coy told a reporter outside City Hall on Monday. When asked whether he or the board made the decision, Coy replied, "I did."

Two board members reached Monday, Rhonda Norton and Warren Cox, said they support the chief and knew of no decision to suspend him. The other two board members, Sheryl Lejeune and Mary Lou Jung, could not be reached for comment.

The board is expected to decide the chief's fate at its next regular meeting, on May 8. Runge said he isn't worried, because a majority vote is needed to fire him, and the mayor cannot break a tie.

Newly elected alderman Norton said she got a puzzling letter Friday afternoon from Coy saying the Board of Aldermen told him of the decision to suspend Runge. When neighbors gathered on her front lawn Friday night asking why, she didn't have an answer for them, she said.

Runge said he met with Coy on Friday, and Runge said the mayor told him "80 percent" of the town's 3,000 residents were "deathly afraid" of him and that business owners wanted him out. He also told Runge that the Board of Aldermen made the decision, Runge said.

"He made up some things that were so far-fetched that it's unbelievable," Runge said. "When a man you've arrested becomes your boss, you never know what to expect."

Runge believes Coy has a personal agenda against him because Runge arrested him a few years ago on an outstanding warrant. Coy has a misdemeanor conviction for passing a bad check and also traffic and motor vehicle violations.

Runge said he believes Coy is also angry because the police department withdrew their police academy sponsorship of Coy's son, Steve. Before the son had any police authority, he bought a flashing red light, a scanner, and handcuffs, Runge said, and was seen responding to a police call. Coy said his decision had nothing to do with his arrest or his son.

Jerry and Barb Wion have placed a large plywood sign on their lawn encouraging people to call the mayor to ask why he suspended the chief. Jerry Wion is a part-time volunteer officer. Barb Wion, a former alderman, said Runge won several grants for the department to pay for equipment and overtime, has cleaned up crime in its mobile home parks, and won several awards. 
Jerry Wion puts up a sign in his yard Monday questioning the suspension of Moscow Mills Police Chief Steve Runge by the town's new mayor. Wion is a volunteer officer in the department. J. B. Forbes Post-Dispatch 
April 18, 2006

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