Kittanning to swear in police chief
KITTANNING — The borough's new police chief, Bruce Matthews, is to be sworn in on Tuesday afternoon after what has been a contentious and drawn-out process.
Monday night, council voted 5-1 to rescind Matthews' previous 10-day suspension and to pay him all lost wages and benefits.
Council members Mike Rosenberger, Betsy Wilt, Joie Pryde, Ange Turco and Chris Schiano voted in favor of rescinding the suspension.
Richard Reedy voted against the measure.
Council members Kim Fox and Andrew Peters were absent.
The vote followed a 25-minute executive session during which time council said it discussed matters related to Matthews.
According to president Schiano, council was not able to make public the reasons for Matthews' suspension because of the collective bargaining agreement.
“There is a petition to unseat (Matthews), to make the suspension stick,” said Schiano, adding that rumors had been circulating that some people had been strong-armed into signing the petition.
Resident Joe Bowser said he had started the petition but had not coerced anyone into signing.
“How can you honor a man who can't follow the law,” asked Bowser.
“He hasn't been proven guilty,” said Schiano.
Resident Tim Crytzer said he hoped that council had done its due diligence in the investigation process.
Schiano assured him that had been the case.
“The bargaining unit has a contract that says council can't comment on disciplinary action of police officers, said Schiano.
“We investigated it. It was investigated by an independent insurance (agency) and no wrong-doing was found.”
“I'm the personnel chair and I can assure you I did due diligence,” said Pryde, adding that she had asked to review personnel files.
Crytzer said he didn't like council's decision and cited a limited budget as the main reason for his objection.
“I'm asking that the borough be run the right way without personal agendas” he said.
Schiano argued that present council members were staying so well within the budget that the $250,000 tax anticipation loan for 2013 had not been touched so far.
“We're approaching solvency. Somebody must be doing something right,” said Schiano.
Mayor Kirk Atwood commended Pete Harmon for his service as officer-in-charge while the issue over a police chief was resolved. Atwood noted that to save on overtime, the borough needed to hire a police officer to fill a floater position — to fill in for the other six officers' vacation and sick days.
Council voted 6-0 to hire an officer to fill the position.
After the meeting Atwood said the officer working as a floater would earn 70 percent of the base salary, which is $50,666.
During the meeting, Pryde said council had been notified by U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly's office of a federal grant that would fund 75 percent of the salary and benefits of the police chief for three years. The borough is eligible for the grant, and if awarded, would only be responsible for paying $8,865 total for two years.
“That's not a bad deal,” said Pryde.
Reedy raised concerns over what he believed had been disruptive use of cell phones by some council members during previous borough meetings. His initial motion to ban all cell phones during the public meetings did not pass.
However, council voted 6-0 to put up signs in council chambers limiting cell phone use during meetings.
John Adkins, location manager for DreamWorks, told council that filming for the movie “Glimmer” would begin July 21. During several days between that date and early October, some of the filming will take place along the Kittanning Citizens Bridge and along portions of Market Street, he said.
“We will be treating Kittanning with respect,” said Adkins.
He said that movie making is an intrusion but the film company intends to minimize any negative impact on the town.
In other business, council voted 6-0 to hire two full-time street workers.
Brigid Beatty is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-543-1303 or firstname.lastname@example.org.