Two months after being told he was likely being replaced, Palm Beach County School District Police Chief Lawrence Leon surprised his officers last week with some jarring news: The veteran cop was keeping his job after all.
“I did finally receive confirmation that I am reappointed into my current position,” Leon wrote in an email Friday to his department.
The message stunned many of the school district’s more than 150 officers, triggering speculation that Leon had managed to outmanuver newly installed Superintendent Donald Fennoy, who has been openly conducting a national search to “identify the best individual” to be the district’s new police chief.
But there was one problem with Leon’s boast: The school district says it’s not true.
“Larry has not been reappointed,” said Amity Schuyler, the school district’s chief of staff, said of the 6-year chief. “That position has been eliminated. You can’t be reappointed into a position that’s been eliminated.”
The rebuttal raised questions about why Leon, who did not respond to a request for comment Thursday, announced to his staff that he was keeping his job despite an ongoing search for a new police chief.
In the email to staff, Leon did not elaborate on his purported reappointment. After announcing the pending retirement of one of his veteran officers, Leon mentioned the surprising news in a single sentence: “On a final note I did finally receive confirmation that I am reappointed into my current position.”
Leon is among the applicants being considered for the new chief position, but no decision has been made about who will be selected, Schuyler said.
Word that Leon’s days as chief might be numbered first came in late March, when Fennoy alerted board members that he was considering replacing Leon as the district expanded its police force in the wake of the Parkland school shooting massacre.
In a March 30 memo, Fennoy said that he planned to restructure the chief’s position and conduct a national search to select a chief to lead the department.
With the department expected to grow quickly, Fennoy told board members that it was important “to ensure we have the most comprehensive leadership in place.”
The search for a chief was open to internal and external candidates, meaning that Leon, who has led the department since 2012, could apply and be considered.
But since the position is being redesigned, one thing that can’t happen is Leon being reappointed into it, Schuyler said.
“He’s been advised that position is being eliminated,” she said, adding that he had been invited to apply for the revamped chief position and had done so.
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