Kittanning plans special session to pick top cop
By Brigid Beatty
Published: Wednesday, April 17, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
KITTANNING — Perhaps the third time will be a charm for Kittanning Council in seeking to name a new police chief.
Council announced on Tuesday it will meet in special session April 22 – the third public meeting in April.
The announcement was made public on Tuesday following council's private session Monday evening.
According to Councilman Richard Reedy, the closed session, which met to discuss a personnel matter, was attended by all council members except Andrew Peters.
Reedy declined to comment further on details surrounding the personnel issue.
Solicitor Chase McClister said the state Sunshine Law provides that an executive session can be held before, during or after a public meeting, or may be announced for a future time as long as members of the agency are notified at least 24 hours before the session.
Borough secretary Betty Thompson said a letter dated and mailed April 11 was sent by President Chris Schiano to all council members, as well as McClister, calling for last Monday's executive session.
McClister also noted that the state's opening meeting law requires that at the meeting following the executive session, members of council must announce the reason for holding the closed session.
Comments by McClister concerning Sunshine Act requirements were verified by the Pennsylvania News Media Association's legal department.
Reedy said council plans to vote on choosing a new police chief during the April 22 meeting.
The validity of council's 5-3 vote to nominate Kittanning police officer Bruce Matthews for the position of police chief during April 1 meeting was not resolved during the special public meeting on April 9.
On April 1, the day outgoing police Chief Ed Cassesse retired, Mayor Kirk Atwood appointed Kittanning police officer Pete Harmon to the position of officer-in-charge until council hired a new police chief.
Reedy on Tuesday said he wants Harmon to be the new chief.
“He's the officer in charge now and the police department is running fine, like it was before,” said Reedy.
During the April 9 meeting, council voted 4-3 to table the decision to appoint a new police chief because of public concern over whether the budget has enough money to support the chief's position.
“Council did not budget for the position of chief of police,” said Atwood in a news release dated April 7.
“As of April 1, there is $5,152.29 remaining in the chief's budget,” said Atwood, adding that council has not created a plan on how to pay for the chief's wages or make up that difference in the budget.
Council has not publicly discussed what it will pay a new police chief.
“I will, without question, veto any legislative action that puts this year's no tax increase budget at risk,” he said.
Councilwoman Kim Fox argued during the April 9 meeting that council was staying within the budget.
McClister, during that same meeting, said the money to support hiring a new chief should fall within the police budget.
Calls to Schiano, Fox and Atwood seeking further comment were not immediately returned Tuesday.
Brigid Beatty is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-543-1303 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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