Policing issues continue to dominate Donora council discussions.
At its meeting on Thursday’s agenda, council debated the possibility of hiring a full-time officer.
The police department is down to three full-time officers due to resignations and the recent dismissal of Police Superintendent James Brice. The department was further stretched after five part-time officers left the department after Brice was fired.
Councilman Joe Greco said Thursday he wanted to put a motion on the agenda for the Sept. 8 meeting to hire Carl Talbert as a full-time officer. Talbert has worked at Donora in the past and is a part-time officer at Monongahela. Greco said Talbert completed the civil service test in November.
But questions were raised by some council members about whether the test was legal, as the public service commission at the time was not fully complying with state law.
“How could we pass a civil service test without a civil service commission at the time?” Councilor Thomas Thompson asked. “If we didn’t have a commission, that test you gave was illegal. … We need cops, there’s no doubt about it. Let’s do it legally.
There were appointees on the board at the time, but they were never sworn in and never met regularly.
The council voted in July to reinstate a civil service commission with respect to the police, while ending the operations of the previous commission.
“The reason I included language abolishing the former civil service commission was precisely for that matter,” attorney Steve Toprani said. “It was as clear as mud as to whether we had a council, whether that council was properly constituted and whether they were meeting.”
Councilman Gilbert Szakal said the borough needs officers and he could still put forward a motion to hire Talbert on Sept. 8.
“Even if you make the motion, I vote against it,” Greco said. “Forget that.”
Council Chairman Michael McDowell said the matter would be subject to further discussion.
In addition, council is expected to vote on hiring a new borough administrator at the September 8 meeting.
“We have someone who is interested in the job,” Szakal said.
The position has been vacant since the resignation of Terri Petroske in June. It was part of a mass exodus from the business office earlier this year, when the accountant, clerk, code enforcement officer and street foreman also all quit.
The council voted in July to hire Chris Cunningham as borough administrator, but he did not accept the position.
At that July meeting, Louis Morrison Jr. was hired as an accountant.
Also scheduled for the Sept. 8 meeting is the first reading of an ordinance to help the borough allow police to issue citations for degraded properties.
Toprani said the order would allow police and code enforcement officers to issue a ticket without going through the current lengthy notice process. It will also allow for an increase in fines from $300 to $1,000 and provide for prison terms for certain offences.
“It’s something I would recommend,” Toprani said. “It’s something that would definitely help us bring properties into compliance with our existing (borough) code.”