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Westmoreland

Latrobe council votes 5-2 to reject chief candidate who missed deadline

Jeff Himler
| Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2018, 1:24 a.m.
The entrance to the Latrobe police station, seen on Aug. 13, 2018, is marked prominently at the city municipal building on Jefferson Street.
The entrance to the Latrobe police station, seen on Aug. 13, 2018, is marked prominently at the city municipal building on Jefferson Street.

One name will be missing when the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association interviews candidates to be Latrobe’s next police chief.

City council voted 5-2 on Monday to reject an applicant the association recommended as a top prospect. A majority on council said the candidate, who was not identified, should be disqualified because he missed an advertised deadline for submitting an application.

The city is paying the chiefs association $5,000 for its assistance in screening candidates wanting to succeed Chief James Bumar, who plans to soon retire after 34 years with the department, including eight years as chief.

City manager Wayne Jones expressed hopes the chiefs group will be ready to interview leading candidates next week after reviewing applications, determining which candidates are qualified and ranking them in groups — including six top hopefuls. Once the group has completed its interviews and made its recommendations, council will be free to conduct its own interviews before deciding on a hire.

Councilman Jack Murtha questioned how an application that was submitted after the July 2 deadline — reportedly by a Latrobe man — made it into the pool of the top candidates.

Mayor Rosie Wolford said she wasn’t aware of the deadline when she received the application via email, forwarded it to Jones and inquired if the applicant was too late to consider. Jones said he similarly passed the application along to the chiefs group, which indicated it could still be considered.

According to Jones, the application was received close to a month past the deadline. Yet, he said, the chiefs association deemed the candidate qualified and included him in a list of top hopefuls provided to the city.

After the arrival of the late application, Wolford said, two of the six top candidates identified by the chiefs withdrew their applications. She said the chiefs group once more reviewed and ranked all 16 of the remaining candidates, including the latecomer.

Jim Kelley, Christine Weller, Gerald Baldonieri and Robert Forish joined Murtha in voting to reject the late application. Eric Bartels and Wolford, who participates in council votes, were opposed.

Weller questioned whether the tardy candidate displayed sufficient interest in the chief’s position.

“We’re hiring somebody to be a leader in the community,” she said. “We want somebody who’s going to pay attention to what’s going on in this community.”

She argued that, to be fair, two other candidates who were next in line in ranking should be advanced into the top six before considering someone who missed the deadline.

Kelley was also concerned about being fair to all candidates. By using the services of a third party, he said, “I thought what we were trying to do was have a level playing field.”

Wolford argued that council hired the chiefs group to assist in the review of candidates and should let it decide whether or not it would accept late applications.

“Our job is to get the most-qualified candidate for the position,” Wolford said. “When you get a resume, if the person is qualified, you don’t want to exclude them.”

Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jeff at 724-836-6622, jhimler@tribweb.com or via Twitter @jhimler_news.

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