Shamokin accepts chief's resignation
SHAMOKIN - City council officially accepted the resignation of police chief Edward Griffiths at its monthly meeting Monday at City Hall.
Griffiths, a member of the Shamokin Police Department since May 1992 and chief since January 2010, submitted his retirement papers April 2.
Council members applauded his service to the community and wished him the best of luck after voting 4-0 to accept the resignation. Councilman R. Craig Rhoades was absent.
Griffiths said council is on the right track to repair the city's financial difficulties, citing the hiring earlier this month of Robert M. Slaby as city clerk.
The outgoing police chief said previously that a strained relationship with Mayor William D. Milbrand was among his reasons for retiring.
His last day on the job will be April 30.
Holiday pay due
Cpl. Jarrod Scandle, a seven-year member of the force, asked council when holiday pay from the second half of 2013 will be paid.
The holiday pay is part of $811,492.07 of unfunded debt, or unpaid bills, that accrued in 2013. The city has negotiated with several banks for a loan to cover the unpaid bills, which so far has been unsuccessful.
"We are working diligently to receive a loan," Milbrand said. "We have been turned down by several banks. At some point, the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) will recommend an Act 47 filing."
An Act 47 designation allows the state potentially expansive oversight over the city's attempt at fiscal recovery, including following a state approved plan and perhaps appointing an adviser to guide financial decision making. It could also open up the city to changes in existing collective bargaining agreements and potential reduction in staffing, temporary or permanent. Currently, Shamokin is enrolled in the Early Intervention Program monitored by DCED to avoid such filing.
Scandle suggested council use money from its general fund to pay off last year's holiday pay, but Milbrand said that money has to be used only for current year expenses.
Vests, broken cars
Scandle said the police department is in danger of losing a grant that would fund half of the purchase of two ballistic vests because the city has yet to pay their end of an approximate $1,400 bill from Atlantic Tactical. Scandle told council several officers due to receive vests were told by the company they could not purchase them because of the past due amount.
Milbrand said that bill is also most likely part of the unfunded debt, but an exception to pay a bill from 2013 can be made if there is a risk of losing a grant. That approval, he said, would have to come from council.
"We've got to be very cautious on what we pay," Milbrand said. "In previous years, we have paid past bills with the Tax Revenue Anticipation Note (TRAN). We are in some very trying times right now."
Scandle and Griffiths also said a grant that would be used to set up speed traps may be forfeited because of the lack of operable police vehicles. The department has seven police vehicles, at least two of which DCED recommended to council get rid of.
"We have three (vehicles) sitting in disrepair. We don't have enough vehicles to effectively do what we are supposed to do," Scandle said. "We don't have enough cars to run a speed trap on Route 61."
Scandle asked council if anybody has requested an investigation into the city's financial situation. Milbrand said council was advised not to request one unless an audit revealed an issue.
"The taxpayers want an investigation," Griffiths said. "A letter should be sent to the district attorney."
Milbrand said council will take Griffiths' recommendation into consideration and discuss the matter at their next workshop session.