Atlantic Beach hires police chief

Ex-NMB officer takes over after Rizzo let go

jfrost@thesunnews.comMarch 17, 2010 

Atlantic Beach hired a new police chief Tuesday, nearly five months after suspending, then firing, former Police Chief Randy Rizzo.

Eric Lewis, a former sergeant with the North Myrtle Beach Department of Public Safety, will begin work with the town today, bringing the department's current number of officers to four, according to town officials.

"[Lewis] has a lot of experience," said Atlantic Beach town manager William Booker. "He's educated in police work. He's familiar with the community. He has community-based initiative experiences that could be good for the town. And he's excited about coming."

Lewis could not be reached Tuesday for comment. A 21-year veteran of North Myrtle Beach's Public Safety Department, he resigned from that department last month.

Lewis - who has been critical of the actions taken by some North Myrtle Beach city officials and considered running for mayor last fall - is at least the fifth police officer who has resigned or been fired from North Myrtle Beach's Public Safety Department since November's election.

North Myrtle Beach spokeswoman Nicole Aiello has said Lewis "voluntarily resigned" but did not say why.

Rizzo, who Booker said is terminated, had been suspended without pay since he was charged with public intoxication in October.

His termination from the Atlantic Beach Police Department went into effect March 10, Booker said.

"We have communicated with him by mail," Booker said. "He was terminated for the same reason as his suspension - his conduct was unbecoming of a member as the chief of police."

Rizzo could not be reached Tuesday for comment.

Rizzo was suspended after Horry County police arrested him outside a pool hall Oct. 28, and charged him with public disorderly/public intoxication. Rizzo said after the arrest that he had "too many beers."

Rizzo, who recently started receiving unemployment benefits, said last month that he has talked with his attorney and was weighing his options; he said the town is in breach of his contract.

Booker said Tuesday that he received a letter several months ago, shortly after Rizzo's suspension, concerning Rizzo's contract, which Booker forwarded to the town's attorney.

Last month, Booker said the police department's interim police chief, Sgt. Michelle Pierson, would remain in that position until at least July. The town advertised the position in February, which Booker said was "just to see what is out there, and does not reflect what would happen with Rizzo."

On Tuesday, he said Pierson will temporarily stay to help Lewis get acclimated and that the police department will be down to three officers when Pierson leaves.

"The July timeframe is when she definitely will be gone," Booker said.

Contact JANELLE FROST at 443-2404.

Myrtle Beach Sun News is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service