Coaldale Mayor Richard Corkery made his first public council appearance at a borough council meeting Tuesday night since his arrest in July 2011 for possession of child pornography.
Corkery, whose trial is scheduled for January in Carbon County Court, announced his remorse that secretary-treasurer Nancy Lorchak's was resigning, and then addressed the board and public regarding the police layoffs.
Lorchak said she was offered back her former position as administrative assistant at Maple Shade Meadows senior living community in Nesquehoning. Council accepted her resignation.
Council then hired Andrea Davis on a unanimous vote as the new secretary-treasurer.
Last year council laid off the town's three full-time police officers as a cost-saving measure. State police at Frackville and part-time patrolmen now provide services. The move has drawn fire from residents.
"First off I would congratulate and commend this council for all their hard work, most especially at being such good stewards of the borough's funds. This commendation is also extended to past councilmember and present secretary-treasurer Nancy Lorchak," Corkery said. "I would especially commend the council for their courage in making the most difficult decision to layoff our three full-time police officers and two borough workers. Please know that those three police officers were rehired as part-time officers with 32 hours per week but without full benefits. If that action had not taken place our borough would have been bankrupt by last October."
Corkery said the borough is now financially solvent.
The three police officers have sued the borough for full reinstatement. The action is in litigation so Corkery could not comment on the suit.
"It is now time to face the facts and move on. I will say to those police officers affected that if they really want to remain in law enforcement, and need a position with full benefits, that they need to look elsewhere. Coaldale, with a population of 2,000, heavily laden with senior citizens on fixed income, just cannot afford full-time police officers with full benefits anymore," Corkery said.
Costs vs. funds
He continued to announce the projected costs of rehiring the three officers at full time with full benefits and explained that the tax collector had informed him that of 1,709 tax bills that were issued, 573 are delinquent.
Corkery quoted the number of calls that each officer responded to in 2012.
"Officer (Charles) Blesse responded to 144 calls, (Keith) Krapf 187, and (Todd) Weiss 142. Part-time officer Joe Krebs worked 544 himself," he said.
Corkery said this information was provided to him by Police Chief Timothy Delaney.
"I believe this information speaks for itself," Corkery said.
The atmosphers in room had grown incredibly tense. The assembled families of officers Charles Blesse, Keith Krapf, and Todd Weiss locked their stares at Corkery, and their breathing quickened. A verbal spat broke out between Councilman John Sherbin and an irate Angela Krapf, who is married to Keith Krapf. Later in the meeting, when the board went into executive session, Weiss explained outside the borough hall that police work is more than about responding to calls. He said that the paperwork relating to calls takes a lot of time, patrol work and investigative work is very time consuming, and travel between departments is a constant.
Corkery also, for reasons that remained unclear as of Tuesday, has asked solicitor Michael Greek about bankruptcy.
"The mayor sent me a letter inquiring about bankruptcy for the municipality," Greek said during his report. "My general understanding of municipal bankruptcy is that you voluntarily enter into it or you are forced into it by being in default for either salaries or secured debt. What happens in a municipal bankruptcy is a trustee is appointed to oversee the formation of a plan in order to continue to pay your creditors, reorganize your debt, and bring yourself back into solvency. That plan would cut costs and increase revenue. The plan is reviewed by the trustee and if it is approved you then have to comply with the payment plan you put in place for yourself. That is my basic understanding of it," Greek said.
Councilman Thomas Keerans said that the proposed 2014 budget will be distributed to the council in November and voted on in December.
While the council conferred in an executive session, Tommy Weiss, father of Officer Todd Weiss, commented outside the borough building.
"I don't understand how the mayor can claim total solvency, but then send a letter to the solicitor asking him to look into bankruptcy for the municipality. They just furloughed the police officers to avoid bankruptcy," he said.