CURWENSVILLE — A change in leadership in the borough’s police department and admonishing the mayor for not working in cooperation with council over the recent police officer issues topped Tuesday’s special Curwensville Borough Council meeting.
Council unanimously appointed Patrolman Joe Witherite as interim officer in charge. President Sara Curulla was absent. Councilman Robert Moore missed the vote but when he came into the meeting, the motion was explained by Vice President Harriet Carfley, who chaired the meeting in Curulla’s absence. Moore said he supported council’s action.
Council also listed Witherite’s duties under the advanced position. Those include uniform crime reporting, creating officer work schedules with Mayor John Adams, responding to police department email and correspondence in regards to laboratory testing as well as other agencies and authoring and approving any news releases or reports issued by the department.
When she made the motion to advance Witherite to the position, Councilwoman Rhonda Carfley said the appointment is “for the time being.”
Rhonda Carfley, a member of the council’s police committee, also said she is concerned with officer’s monthly work schedules created by Mayor Adams, which she said left the borough without coverage several days during the month including two weekends.
She reported sitting down with the committee and working out a draft schedule so that there was at least one officer working one shift each day.
“It may only be one shift but at least there is some coverage,” she explained.
She explained that if there are days during the month when no officers are working, she said she believes that leaves the borough vulnerable to Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposal that municipalities without police protection be required to pay for state police protection. Although the measure has not yet passed, Rhonda Carfley she doesn’t want the borough to be forced to pay for something it is able to provide.
“I don’t want to see us have to pay if we can make this schedule work out,” she explained.
“Obviously this is still a work in progress, but it is doable,” she said of the draft schedule. “The mayor and Officer Witherite can set up their own schedule so that everyone gets the time off they need or requested. Then next month they can flip (the schedule) around.”
Mayor Adams said care does need to be taken with scheduling so that the borough is not required to pay time and a half to officers who work too many days in a row.
Rhonda Carfley said, “That’s perfectly fine but I think you can still do it so there are no open days with no coverage.”
Carfley said the police committee met with both officers and told them they can assist in building the work schedule as long as there are no days that there is not an officer working at least one shift.
She said the new work schedule for the department will go into effect Wednesday, Aug. 7.
Rhonda Carfley also told Mayor Adams, she was “truly upset” about how he conducted himself at a special meeting of council July 15.
She said council worked “especially hard” to include Mayor Adams in the discussion and committee sessions that led up to the special meetings on July 15 and July 26. “We were modeling how a team works together. But you came in, signed the grievance and did your showboating. That is not the way to treat council who tried to work with you,” she stated.
Mayor Adams said, “Hindsight is 20/20. I would like to see us go on from here.”
Several of the council members told Mayor Adams they believe they no longer trust him and are unwilling to work with him.
“How can we respect you if you go behind our backs?” Councilman Dave Donahue said.
Harriet Carfley said, “These are all things council has concerns about and have been holding back. We have been trying to have professional meetings and do things the best we can.”
Council also reviewed the mayor’s duties as outlined in the state Borough Code.