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Chief criticized for Houston evacuation work, incident at home

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The Ellis County Press

                PALMER – Police Chief John Zaidle and several of his top lieutenants are in Houston helping control Hurricane Ike evacuation traffic as an incident involving a death in town has residents lobbing criticism of the department’s handling of the event.

                Justice of the Peace Linda Sibley, R-Midlothian, estimated the crowd converging at the house on Lakeview as about 100-strong.

                She stopped short of criticizing the fire and police personnel, however.

                “The officers did a good job, they secured the body in the room,” Sibley said, clarifying that Ellis County’s four JPs are on a rotating on-call basis throughout the county. “The funeral home [director] estimated the crowd of 100 people.

                “It was hostile.”

                The criticism against Zaidle, a 28-year-old chief who was appointed as the replacement of Cary Scott Lynch earlier this year, came from residents and elected officials alike; all chose to remain anonymous.

                “We’d be glad to address the complaints [about the incident], but I can’t do anything about it if I don’t know anything,” Zaidle said, who shot down a rumor that he and his staff were making $1,800 a day working in Houston. “We don’t have a problem up there as far as I know, but I couldn’t help even if I wanted [right now].”

                Palmer City Administrator Doug Young said one Palmer officer handled the situation.

                “The incident occurred yesterday,” Young said. “A single Palmer officer handled the incident. No other law enforcement agencies were involved. [Justice of the Peace Linda] Sibley also handled the incident.

                “No other law enforcement agencies were involved. Have the other law enforcement officials contact me if they have a problem with the handling.”

                Young, in the same e-mail response seeking his comment on the situation, referred to a writer for the controversial Palmer Post newsletter circulating town that criticizes him:

                “Be sure your friend Dick Austin is advised,” he said.

                Sibley said the victim was in her 40s, a “very beautiful lady” whose only medication was blood pressure medicine.

                First elected in 2002, Sibley referred the case to the medical examiner’s office in Fort Worth. She said both fire and police officials on scene “hated the fact” that dispatch made an error in assuming a local funeral home was available on scene.

                Sibley said downed street signs prevented her from finding the house in a southern Palmer neighborhood.

                “It’s my fault that I got lost, and I apologized to the people [and relatives], but those officers secured that room,” Sibley said.

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