Brian Biechy, a police officer for over 15 years in Lehighton, last night was named "officer in charge" of the borough's police department.

His new assignment was scheduled to become effective today.

However, borough manager Nicole Beckett said she has done research which brings to question the legality of council's action.

She said her research indicates that it might have to be the mayor who names an "officer in charge."

Mayor Donald Rehrig announced that Monday night was his last meeting in that capacity. He has served the borough for the past 24 years; 16 as a council member and the last eight as mayor.

Beckett said she will consult with the borough's solicitor, attorney James Nanovic, regarding the matter.

Biechy replaces Chief of Police Neal Ebbert as head of of the department, which has nine full-time members.

Ebbert was named chief in January 2011.

On June 2 of this year, he was suspended following an executive meeting of the council. He remained suspended for at least two months.

He returned to the position of patrolman.

Scott Probosniak has been the officer in charge of the police department since then.

Sgt. Joseph Lawrence has been representing the police department at borough council meetings since Ebbert's suspension. The reason for the suspension was never made public.

Ebbert has been a police officer for Lehighton borough since 1989 and was named corporal of the department 13 years ago, a position he held until he was named chief.

The council placed an advertisement for a chief of police. Beckett said 14 applications were received.

An executive meeting of council was held following the regular meeting of borough council last night for personnel matters.

After the executive session, Biechy was named "officer in charge" of the department.

Council didn't give a reason for naming an officer in charge instead of a chief.

However, it was stated that Biechy will continue receiving his regular salary the rest of this year, then receive the salary of police chief in 2014.

Attorney Nanovic said usually officer in charge is a temporary position.

The salary for the chief of police in 2013 was $64,570.

It increases to $66,184 in 2014.

If the action is deemed to be improper, the matter probably won't be resolved until council reorganizes in 2014 since Friday morning's meeting is advertised only for budget adoption.