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Charleroi Regional gets new chief

| Thursday, June 19, 2014, 12:01 a.m.
Eric Porter

The Charleroi Regional Police force has a new chief from within its own ranks.

Eric Porter, who was appointed to the job Wednesday night, had been serving as acting chief since shortly after the regional board accepted the retirement resignation of Chief Mike Matyas.

A 1992 graduate of Charleroi Area High School, Porter has served the Charleroi police force on a full-time basis for the past 16 years, after working part-time with various area departments.

Most recently, he was the regional force's lieutenant detective.

The board eventually voted 6-1 to hire Porter, but the way the board came to that decision was not universally accepted by some directors.

The only thing the board could agree on during the hiring discussion was that most board members agreed the minutes from their May 22 meeting did not accurately reflect the discussion that took place at that session about the process for hiring a new chief.

Bill Lee and Steve Hega, mayors of Speers and North Charleroi respectively, said the board had agreed to follow past practice of hiring from within the department.

But Charleroi Mayor John Mollenauer said that was not past practice. He said Mike Garrow, a Uniontown officer, applied the last time the department hired a chief.

After unanimously rejecting the minutes from the May 22 meeting, the board discussed the perameters for hiring a new chief.

Lee made a motion to hire from within the department ranks. That motion was approved, 4-2, with board President Randy DiPiazza abstaining. Lee, Hega, Bob Hodgson and Curtis Rice voted yes, while Mollenauer and Larry Celaschi Jr. voted no.

Before casting his vote, Celaschi read a lengthy prepared statement.

He noted that the Charleroi Area School District utilized Intermediate Unit One to conduct an exhaustive search before going outside of its ranks to hire Ed Zelich as superintendent Tuesday night.

He recommended the board follow suit, utilizing the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association or former sate Department of Community and Economic Development official Bill Gamble to lead the search for a new chief.

“For the record, I am not indicating that there are not qualified individuals from within,” said Celaschi, noting he is a former Equal Employment Opportunity Commission officer for Washington County.

“But, what I am emphasizing is that the EEOC and the U.S. Department of Labor are standard bearers for hiring practices. We being city government should set an example by following their guidelines of the hiring practices that they set for this country.”

But Hodgson replied, “We have excellent people within the force that know the community.”

Hega made a motion to hire Porter.

Mollenauer initially abstained.

“We have a great candidate, but I do not like the aroma of the people who are pushing me to vote the way they want,” Mollenauer said.

“Eric, it's nothing personal, but I've had people pointing their fingers at me, saying, ‘Tell me you're going to vote for him.' Don't do that to me.

“If we're covering EEOC (regulations,) I'd vote for him. But I don't know that,” Mollenauer added.

Mollenauer then asked Solicitor Chris Cardinale whether the board would be following the law if it chose Porter.

The solicitor answered in the affirmative.

“My background in EEOC tells me we're closing the door on some candidates,” Celaschi said.

The board then voted 6-1 to hire Porter with Celaschi casting the only dissenting tally.

The board also voted to hire Gamble, who was a consultant when the regional force was formed, to assist in the transition for the new chief. That vote was along the same 6-1 line.

Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or