East Wash police force to be reviewed

January 22, 2013

Help may soon be on the way to East Washington Borough that would allow its council to appoint a new police chief.

Borough council has been putting off the hiring of a new police chief until the department is reviewed through a program offered by the state’s Department of Community and Economic Development, according to Councilman Jeff Bull.

The review is offered free of charge by the DCED’s Governor’s Center for Local Government Services to municipalities requesting it. Following the review, the center offers various recommendations to the municipality for possible action.

Council asked that the department be reviewed under the program last year, shortly after the indictment of former police Chief Donald Solomon on federal extortion charges. He was fired by the borough and pleaded guilty earlier this month. He faces sentencing in May.

Officer Mark Griffith was named acting chief in Solomon’s place, and it was believed he would soon assume the chief’s title. However, that was more than a year and a half ago, and no changes have yet been made because information had never been submitted by Mayor Mark Pacilla, who supervises the police department.

At Monday night’s meeting, council decided to push the issue.

“If the mayor’s not doing anything, I think it’s up to council to step in and get it done,” advised solicitor Dennis Makel.

Makel’s comments came after council discussed Pacilla’s and Griffith’s absence from the meeting, during which they had hoped that answers could be provided regarding whether the police department had standard operating procedures and job descriptions in place for its officers.

Also questioned was the status of the department’s policy manual that was to be reviewed by former solicitor Carey Jones before it would be considered by council.

Jones, however, was fired as borough solicitor in August. Makel was hired immediately as his replacement but said Tuesday he was never given a copy of the manual for review.

“It seems we have an ongoing problem with the management of the department,” said Councilman Ben Brown, before council went on to approve a motion to force either the council President Blake McCandless or the mayor to proceed with the state review so that a new chief could be hired. McCandless also was absent from the meeting.

Pacilla said Tuesday the department has always had required policies and procedures but council did not approve of how they were recorded.

“They wanted something prettier,” said Pacilla, adding that the manual will be given to Makel for review.

As for the DCED program, Pacilla said he’s been working on formatting the information requested by the state. He said he is just about to finish the job and it will be submitted within the week.

“I think it’s a good idea if it helps us,” he said.

Linda Metz has been with the Observer-Reporter since 2000, covering Washington County courts and politics, as well as the city of Washington. She previously was employed by the Tribune Review. She is a graduate of Point Park College, now a university, in Pittsburgh.

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