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Gilpin officials cleared in police office break-in

| Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

The Gilpin officials involved in a reported Nov. 26 burglary at the township building have been cleared of any wrongdoing, township solicitor James Favero said on Monday.

The incident occurred when it was discovered that Officer-in-charge Ralph Varatto hadn't returned all keys following his suspension the day before.

In a text message sent well before that day, police Chief Dan Clark asked why supervisors broke into the police office and saw classified information.

About 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 26, the township's clerk-treasurer, a police officer and board of supervisors Chairwoman Janine Remaley were present when the department door was forcibly opened.

“We stood by our actions and it was found we did nothing wrong,” Remaley said.

Favero said the Armstrong County District Attorney's Office and the state police are finishing an inventory of the Gilpin Police Department's evidence locker, which is being conducted to rule out any allegations.

Three days after the burglary call, supervisors held a special meeting and voted to suspend Clark.

Varatto and Clark remain suspended without pay, Remaley said.

Probationary part-time Officer Walter Scratchard requested that the board increase his and another new officer's salary from $13 per hour to $15.50, the rate that part-time officers receive after a one-year probationary period.

The township is patrolled by state police and three part-time officers, one of whom has been with the township for 10 years, Remaley said. They were given permission to work additional hours following Varatto's and Clark's suspensions, she said.

Remaley said a decision on pay would be made by the board during its Jan. 6 reorganization meeting, when a new member will be sworn in and board leadership will be chosen.

“That decision will be up to the new board,” she said.

The township is accepting applications for part-time police officers through Jan. 6. Supervisors said they intend to hire two or three part-time officers to increase coverage.

Remaley said the current officers also work in other municipalities.

“They are providing coverage to the best that their other schedules allow,” Remaley said.

2014 budget

In other business, supervisors passed a 2014 budget with no tax increase.

Millage will remain at 6.25 mills. The $675,000 spending plan is about the same as this year.

Jodi Weigand is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4702 or jweigand@tribweb.com.

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