Gilberton, Kessler settle at $30K
GILBERTON - Suspended borough police chief Mark Kessler and borough officials have reached a settlement agreement that will pay Kessler $30,000 and considers him "separated from his employment and voluntarily retired."
The agreement was signed at 4 p.m. Thursday in the office of attorney Joseph P. Nahas, Frackville, who represents Kessler.
In addition to Nahas, others in attendance were Kessler, Mayor Mary Lou Hannon, borough council president Daniel Malloy and attorney John G. Dean with the law firm of Elliott Greenleaf and Dean, which served as the borough's special counsel in the Kessler matter.
When contacted Friday, Hannon said the settlement precludes any comments from borough officials, Kessler and the attorneys.
"All I can say is that it has been amicably resolved," said Hannon.
When asked about Thursday's settlement, Kessler, 42, said he was bound by the confidentiality clause in the agreement not to speak about it.
Nahas said the negotiations were professional.
"Chief Kessler, who had served the community for 13 years, was at the point that he felt he wanted to settle the matter so as not to be a burden on the public he swore to serve and protect," he said. "We went into negotiating an agreement. We came to terms with the borough. I think the both parties conducted themselves in an exemplary manner. It was a good, amenable and cordial process."
Kessler, 42, a former coal miner who has spoken at gun-rights rallies around the country, said Friday he has signed with a production company to star in his own, as-yet-untitled, reality show. He said it will focus on his life and his efforts to start a militia-style group.
"I signed with Relativity TV two days ago. We're going to develop some kind of a show right now. The working title is 'The Chief Kessler Project.' We'll be moving forward on that. It's going to be interesting," he said.
According to an article written by Michael Rubinkam of The Associated Press, Kessler said the show is "gonna be good."
"It's gonna be a different side of me," he said. "I'll knock 'Honey Boo Boo' out of the water."
The controversy involving Kessler began last year in mid-July when he posted two homemade videos to YouTube.com that showed him firing automatic weapons and using profanity while opposing a United Nations treaty on arms regulation and the support of the treaty by the Obama administration.
On July 31, borough council suspended Kessler for 30 days without pay due to his alleged use of borough weapons without permission in the videos. Kessler has repeatedly said that he donated the weapons to the borough and had the right to use them without permission from any borough officials. When the 30 days was up, borough council extended the suspension indefinitely. Kessler entered into an employment contract Dec. 20, 2010, with Gilberton to serve as chief of police for a term of five years.
Borough council was also considering Kessler's termination as police chief. As per his rights under the state's Police Tenure Act, he demanded a public hearing. The hearing was held Oct. 10 at the borough building. The hearing lasted about 90 minutes, and only one person was examined and cross-examined. It ended when someone dropped a semi-automatic pistol on the floor. The handgun did not discharge, but the hearing was suspended. The continuance of the hearing was not held.
The 12-page agreement between Gilberton Borough Council and former chief of police Mark Kessler includes the following stipulations:
- The borough will pay to Kessler a total of $30,000 to be distributed in the following manner: $7,000 as a first payment on a mutually agreed date, followed by 11 payments of $1,000 each mailed to Kessler on the third Friday of each month, followed by eight payments of $1,500 each on the third Friday of each month.
- Kessler withdraws his demand for a public hearing and will discontinue all legal efforts concerning Peter Santilli and the alleged non-licensed use of radio program material.
- Gilberton will not challenge any attempt by Kessler "to obtain unemployment compensation or any other lawful form of welfare pursuant to a social entitlement program, and, to the extent necessary and possible, the parties will consider and regard Mr. Kessler as separated from his employment and voluntarily retired."
Kessler must abide by the following "Special Terms" in order to receive the installment payments:
- Kessler cannot initiate any contact (written or spoken communications) with past and present members of Gilberton Borough Council, borough mayor and employees and their respective family members. He cannot attend in person any Gilberton meetings and cannot remark publicly though social media forums and broadcast media information regarding the settlement agreement or about any former, current and future Gilberton officials, whether elected, appointed or duly employed, regarding the settlement agreement.
- At the time of the first payment, Kessler must return all items of borough property in his possession (Mopec card, police car keys, badge, uniforms and other items). At that time, Kessler will receive any personal possessions in the borough's possession.
- If Kessler fails to adhere to any of the "Special Terms," from "the date this settlement agreement is executed until the end of time," it will be constituted as a breach of the agreement and Gilberton will have the right to cease making payments and have the right to demand Kessler refund to the borough any payments already made to him.
- The borough must make payments on time and in full. If it fails to do so, Kessler has the right to reinstate all actions against the borough, Gilberton will waive applicable statute of limitations defenses in such an event and Kessler has the right to demand a lump sum payment of all remaining payments.
- In consideration of the $30,000 settlement, Kessler "releases and forever discharges Gilberton and all of its predecessors, successors, affiliates, employers, past and present employees, officers, commissioners, councilpersons, mayors, etc...claims, counterclaims, demands, debts, liabilities, accounts, damages, reckonings, obligations...whether known or suspected, unknown or unsuspected, anticipated or unanticipated, direct or indirect, fixed or contingent, which exist, may exist or have existed from the beginning of the world until the date of the settlement agreement. In turn, the borough releases Kessler from all of the same conditions.
- Each party "warrants that from this date forward, he/she/they/it will not make any comments, public or private, regarding this settlement agreement, including the amount of the settlement, other than the matter has been amicably resolved."
- Kessler has 21 days from the date he receives a copy of the settlement agreement to consider entering into it. He also has the right to revoke the agreement within seven days of its execution by submitting a written notice of the revocation to attorney Dean. The settlement agreement will not become effective or enforceable until the expiration of the seven days.