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Pa. town of Gilberton seeks to fire police chief in gun videos

| Thursday, Sept. 19, 2013, 9:45 p.m.

GILBERTON — Town officials said on Thursday they intend to fire a police chief suspended because he posted online videos of himself shooting automatic weapons and going on profanity-laced tirades about liberals and the Second Amendment.

Gilberton Town Council made the decision concerning Chief Mark Kessler, the only full-time member of the town's police force, who is active in gun rights circles and is organizing an armed, nongovernment group that critics call a private militia.

Kessler, despite insisting he was simply exercising his constitutional rights in the videos, said the Town Council's decision was “no surprise.”

“We knew it was coming,” he said.

A closed-door disciplinary hearing earlier in the day dwelled on allegations including that Kessler improperly used a state-administered program to buy discounted tires for his personal vehicle, failed to submit required crime data and made derogatory comments about town officials, said his attorney, Joseph Nahas.

Nahas said the charges were trumped up to conceal the town's intent to fire Kessler over the videos. He said after the vote he'll request a public hearing at which both sides can call witnesses, as is Kessler's right. The council then would have to vote a second time to fire him.

Kessler told reporters that he had been an excellent police chief and had nothing to apologize for.

“My message was to wake up the people who are independents,” he said, “to say, ‘We've had enough, and something needs to change because we're in bad shape all around. Not only here in this little town but across the nation. It's a mess.' ”

Kessler solicited donations to help keep his family afloat during his unpaid suspension, which he said was “really stressful.”

“But I feel in my heart I'm doing the right thing,” he said. “Yeah, I made some videos with some choice language, but that's my right. That's my freedom.”

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