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Ex-McKeesport officer Holtzman is new Forward police chief

| Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013, 4:07 a.m.
Mark Holtzman
Mark Holtzman

Forward Township has something it hasn't in more than three years: a police chief.

On Monday, supervisors unanimously hired retired McKeesport police Deputy Chief Mark Holtzman to head the department.

Board of supervisors chairman Tom DeRosa said Holtzman was hired on Supervisor Ron Skrinjorich's recommendation. DeRosa said no other applicants were considered for the job.

DeRosa said Holtzman's appointment to the non-union position still has to be approved by the state Labor Relations Board. The new chief's wage remained unsettled as of Tuesday but DeRosa said it likely will be in the neighborhood of $65,000-$75,000.

“Hopefully it will work out,” said DeRosa, who has had issues with the department on a number of occasions over past two years.

He said he hopes hiring a chief will bring an end to what he sees as discipline problems within the ranks.

“Hopefully we can get back on track and everything in place again,” he said.

DeRosa said Holtzman can start as soon as he receives his clearances.

Holtzman's hiring comes by way of a labor agreement the township reached with Teamsters Local 205 last month that includes a provision allowing for the hiring of a non-union chief.

The township had been without a chief since Tom Staley retired in August 2009. Staley was a member of the police union. Officer-in-charge Robert Curdie had been acting head of the department since May 2010.

Curdie likely will receive a promotion to sergeant once the new chief is approved by the Labor Relations Board, DeRosa said.

Holtzman, 56, said he is excited about getting back into law enforcement.

“I'm coming out of retirement from one of the greatest police departments of all time,” said Holtzman, who started his career in McKeesport in 1991 and retired in February 2011 after serving 11 years as deputy chief. “I'm looking forward to working with the officers out there.”

Holtzman, who is in the final year of his second term on the McKeesport Area school board, is married and has children.

Carl Bailey, Teamsters Local 205's chief executive officer, said Holtzman's hiring has potential to bring accord between police and township supervisors.

“They need a chief over there to stabilize the place,” Bailey said.

Noting that supervisors have given final approval to the new police contract, Bailey added, “I'm hoping everybody can get along.”

Prior to adoption of the new contract, police had spent much of 2012 working under a contract that did not have the union's approval. A state Labor Relations Board hearing board officer's decision in the fall voided the agreement on grounds that it constituted an unfair labor practice because it was made without the police department's union representative being present.

The contract problems followed what had been a year of friction between supervisors and police in 2011. At several meetings that year, supervisors accused police of not writing traffic tickets, losing and breaking equipment, abusing workers' compensation and not showing up for court appearances.

In July 2011, supervisors told the police union it would disband the force if their complaints against the behavior of some officers were not met.

The threat to disband the force was one DeRosa made as recently as November when the labor relations board issued its decision.

Eric Slagle is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1966, or eslagle@tribweb.com.

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