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Lehighton's police chief is demoted

  • Matthew Bender
    Matthew Bender
Published March 02. 2010 05:00PM

Lehighton Borough Council has failed to renew the contract of its chief of police, which demotes him to the position of patrolman.

Following an executive meeting, the council voted unanimously on the matter involving four-year Chief of Police Matthew Bender.

It was noted that the contract of Bender had a 30-day stipulation that either party could opt to end the contract. That agreement further states that if the contract isn't renewed, that the status of Bender would revert to patrolman.

John C. Wagner, borough manager, said the vacancy has been posted in the police department "and we will seek an in-house candidate."

He said that Sgt. Joseph Lawrence will be in charge of the department until a new chief is named.

Recently, Wagner was instructed to negotiate a nine-month contract with Bender which would have taken the pact to the end of 2010. The reason for only a nine-month agreement was to have the police chief's contract expire at the same time as other employee contracts.

Because negotiations are considered personnel matters and are private, the status of the contract talks wasn't revealed.

Following a regular meeting of the council last week, the council went into an executive session to discuss personnel. When they came out of the meeting, the vote was taken to end the contract with Bender.

Bender, 38, has been chief of police since Jan. 25, 2006 when he was hired at a salary of $51,000. At that time, the position had been offered to Sgt. Lawrence, but he declined, citing concerns about job security and the loss of overtime pay.

Also at that time, more than 50 people had applied for the chief of police job, including five members of the Lehighton Police Department.

Bender is a 10-year member of the force. He succeeded Dennis Wentz in the position. Wentz resigned in 2005 from the department for other, nonpolice employment.

Sgt. Lawrence was in charge of the department during the interim period between Wentz's resignation and the hiring of Bender.

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