Furloughed Coaldale police open door to talks
DONALD R. SERFASS/TIMES NEWS Coaldale Councilman Harry Hontz Jr. reads a letter received from three furloughed police officers Monday regarding pending litigation. The officers have expressed willingness to discuss the issue.
There could there light at the end of the tunnel for a two-year-old issue involving Coaldale Borough Council and three furloughed police officers.
The officers are plaintiffs in an August 2013 lawsuit stemming from the controversial layoff. On Monday, the officers contacted the borough with an offer to open a door to negotiations.
At council's reorganizational meeting held Monday at Coaldale Borough Hall, Councilman Harry Hontz Jr. told the board that a letter had been received via Police Chief Tim E. Delaney regarding the officers and the pending litigation.
Hontz read the letter aloud:
"The purpose of this letter is to advise the Coaldale Borough Council that we are open for discussion and/or negotiations for a possible resolution of the impending litigation between the Borough of Coaldale and the full-time police officers.
"As you are aware, there is currently a lawsuit filed with the Schuylkill County courts against the Borough of Coaldale for a Mandamus Action.
"These lawsuits can be very lengthy and can also be very costly for the parties involved. We are advising the Coaldale Borough Council that we are willing to discuss and/or negotiate a possible resolution to this matter. Should you have any questions, concerns, or are willing to discuss the matter, please advise us."
The letter was signed by police officers Keith Krapf, Todd Weiss and Charles Blesse.
The three full-time officers were furloughed on Feb. 14, 2012, effective March 1 of that year, along with two borough workers, in a move to save money, according to what council indicated at the time.
In August 2013, the officers sued the borough in Schuylkill County Court, asking that they be rehired to their old positions.
The plaintiffs alleged in the lawsuit that Coaldale violated the borough code and their contract by laying them off and then increasing the number of part-time police officers.
The officers asked to be reinstated to their full-time positions with the same salary and benefits they had been receiving. They also asked the court to award them attorney fees, costs and back pay and benefits.
However, the receipt of Monday's letter, along with the same-day election of Angela Krapf as new council president, might indicate a change in dynamics on the issue.
Angela Krapf is wife of furloughed Sgt. Keith Krapf.
The matter will be discussed at the next council meeting on Jan. 14.