Coal Township officer suspended for procedural violation
COAL TOWNSHIP - A township police officer was suspended five days for violating an undisclosed departmental procedural policy.
Patrolman Chad Yoder will not receive pay while he is suspended today through Tuesday. He is eligible to return to the department Wednesday, Police Chief William Carpenter said.
Commissioners Craig Fetterman, Gene Welsh and George Zalar all voted in favor of the suspension. Commissioner Bernie Rumberger was absent. The fifth seat remains open following the August resignation of former commissioner Gerard Waugh.
Yoder can appeal the suspension to the state civil service commission, solicitor Vincent Rovito said.
Neither the commissioners, the police chief nor the solicitor would discuss the details of the suspension or indicate what policy was violated. However, everyone stressed that it was a procedural issue meriting a suspension and nothing more egregious.
Violations of the same departmental policy by other officers may have been "overlooked" in the past, Zalar said. Yoder has been on the job 17 years and he didn't want to tarnish his reputation, but he said action must be taken.
In an unrelated personnel matter, the commissioners said no street department employees would be reprimanded for using township equipment for personal or charitable use.
A township resident expressed concern to Manager Rob Slaby about potential abuse of equipment. The commissioners will review the policy, but Fetterman said he doubts it would change.
Fetterman did say township employees are not allowed to use municipal equipment to turn a profit, say for contracting work on the side.
It has been a long-standing policy to allow street department employees use of township equipment, Rovito said, dating back to at least the 1960s. He said it was done to compensate for insignificant wages paid at the time.
William Kuzmick, roadmaster, said it's an employee's responsibility to put their own fuel in equipment. If something were to break, it'd be the employee's responsibility to fix it, he said.
Kuzmick and the commissioners said there are many times when street department employees use township equipment to help the community off-hours, such as at athletic fields.
Welsh broached the issue during the meeting. Zalar said it was discussed in public, though no names were used, to ensure that the concerns weren't being ignored.
None of the three commissioners at Thursday's meeting wanted to change the policy in a way that could potentially damage a borrowing system that exists with some commercial entities that loan the township heavy equipment or other equipment, and vice versa. The borrowing system is unrelated to the township resident's complaints, which focused specifically on township employees.
The board of commissioners held two executive sessions Tuesday totaling 48 minutes for personnel matters.