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Gilberton chief gets hearing

Published January 10. 2014 05:00PM

Mark A. Kessler, the suspended Gilberton borough police chief, will get his day in Schuylkill County court.

He filed a petition for a preliminary injunction against the mayor and council of the borough to have the hearing in the county court and his request was granted. The borough had scheduled to move the hearing to Lackawanna County.

Judge Charles M. Miller ordered both parties to appear for a hearing on the matter on Monday, Jan. 20, in his courtroom and ordered counsel representing both parties to submit memoranda of law in support of their respective positions prior to the hearing date.

In the petition Kessler states on July 31, 2013, he was suspended for 30 days without pay for the alleged use of borough property, without borough approval, for non-borough purposes and on Aug. 23 was given further notice regarding new issues of neglect of official duties, disobedience of order, and conduct unbecoming an officer.

Before a government employee can be suspended he must be given a hearing, known as a Loudermill hearing. The hearing was held on or about Sept. 19 in the borough council room in Mahanoy Plane to discuss the alleged allegations.

On Oct. 10 a Police Tenure Act hearing was held in the same building. This hearing was only partially completed when it was terminated prematurely due to a gun being dropped by a spectator.

Both parties attempted to have the hearing resumed at the county courthouse but permission was denied and borough council scheduled the hearing for Jan. 24 at the Lackawanna County courthouse in Scranton.

In his petition Kessler claims the place for the hearing is 61 miles away and that the hearing was intentionally located at this distance to create obstructions with intent to deprive his rights to a fair and impartial hearing; that he is unable to get his witnesses to travel that distance; and they do not have the added time nor do they want to be subject to the expense; and danger of traveling in the winter months to this location.

He claims council could have rescheduled the Police Tenure Act hearing in a fire hall or some type of meeting place within the county limits and could have provided private security. His request for the hearing in court was granted.

He was suspended by council when a video appeared in public showing him firing automatic weapons and using obscene language.

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