I applaud their action!
The State Local Government Committee meeting held at the Lehigh Carbon Community College Campus in Tamauqa was welcomed by all in the law enforcement field. The subject of Mayoral control of police has been the cause of unnecessary litigation and a sore subject across Pennsylvania. The reason the Committee came to Tamaqua coincided with the fact that we had a problem here and I am glad they did.
There is no doubt the Pennsylvania Borough Code gives the mayor the role of being in charge of the police department. No one disputes that fact. In fact, during the Tamaqua Police Department's problem with our mayor, that knowledge was not an issue. The issue, not only for us, but for other departments across the state, was that a person gets elected to the mayor's post without having any knowledge of leadership, how municipal governments work or, more importantly, how a police department functions. A person wins the election and is given the reins of the most important department in municipal government. This CAN be a recipe for disaster.
In a TIMES NEWS letter to the editor, authored by William J. Kubilus, Mr. Kubilus states that a civilain is in charge of the U.S. military. That is true. However, part of the president's staff is a group of people called the Joint Chiefs of Staff. As we see in current events unfolding in Afghanistan, the President is consulting with his commanders on the appropriate course of action. In a municipal setting, the Mayor has the Chief of Police and the supervisors under him to consult with, essentially his own "joint chiefs of staff." Unfortunately, too many mayors do not use this support system to help them perform their duties without incident.
What some mayors fail to realize is that the borough code is NOT the end all to what they can and can't do. It certainly plays a part, but what must also be taken into consideration is Pennsylvania Labor Law, collective bargaining agreements and common sense. When these are not taken into consideration, you end up in litigation and wasting money. In Mr. Kubilus' letter, he asks "On who's part?" when referring to Senator Argall's stating there was a "topic of confusion." There was no confusion on Senator Argall's part because he was not a part of what happened here. The confusion, Mr. Kubilus, was on the part of the mayor because he did not take into consideration the three things I mentioned above. That is a fact affirmed by Thomas P. Leonard, Hearing Examiner for the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board.
Alexander J. Chelik, Mayor of the Borough of Mayfield, Lackawanna County, made a statement at the hearings to the effect that all mayors should be given education on how municipal government works and what they can and cannot do. I could not agree more! If changing the borough code would prevent what happened to our department from happening anywhere else, then it should be done. The aggravation, stress and wasted money caused by these types of situations needs to stop. The way the borough code is set up now leaves open the chance for a mayor to act in retaliation and then wave the borough code in the air in an attempt to justify that retaliation. That is not only unfair, but is totally ridiculous.
Henry D. Woods,
Tamaqua PD Collective Bargaining Rep.