SANATOGA PA – A Lower Pottsgrove Police Department officer could be suspended from duty for 60 hours without pay, the township Board of Commissioners agreed Thursday (Jan. 24, 2013), after it held a 70-minute executive session during which board President Jonathan Spadt said members reviewed the personnel matter that involved damage to a police vehicle the officer was driving.
In a departure from past practice, and at what Spadt said was the suggestion of township Solicitor R. Kurtz Holloway, the officer was not identified by name but only by badge number: “Badge 29.” Commissioners revealed little of the incident that prompted the suspension. Their closed-door meeting about the confidential personnel item is allowed under state law.
However, Chief Michael Foltz acknowledged it regarded more than $3,600 in damages that resulted from an accident which occurred last month (December 2012). The disciplined officer, according to Foltz’s December report – received Jan. 7 by commissioners – stuck a curb while driving a 2012 Dodge Charger patrol cruiser as he conducted a night-shift building check.
The officer has a right to appeal the suspension. There was no indication Thursday if an appeal would be filed.
Commissioners have similarly acted in the past to approve a suspension recommended by their chief in a police vehicle accident. It occurred most recently during the summer of 2011, when a officer driving a cruiser hit a light pole. At the time, the board acted on the suggestion of then-Chief Michael Shade and approved a suspension of two 12-hours shifts of the officer, who was publicly identified by name.
There was no explanation offered Thursday for differences in the way the two suspensions were handled.
In the 2011 case, the officer appealed and a hearing was held before the township Civil Service Commission. Ironically, Lower Pottsgrove had to pay for the efforts of two attorneys in that case: one a labor law specialist to represent township interests, and a second to advise the commission itself. Ultimately, the township and officer agreed to a settlement in which the suspension was upheld.
Commissioners left it to Foltz to determine when the suspension in the current case would be served, and over what period of time.
Also during the executive session, Spadt added, commissioners discussed the state of continued labor negotiations between the township and the uniformed officers’ bargaining unit. He defined those talks as “progressing.” The length of the executive session, which began at 6 p.m., caused Spadt to call an unusually late 7:10 p.m. start to the board’s regular 7 p.m. meeting.
Related (to the Lower Pottsgrove Board of Commissioners’ Jan. 24 meeting):