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Is police chief replacement near? Council might vote March 17 to seek candidates for new post

By Dan Miller

danmiller@pressandjournal.com

717-944-4628
Posted 3/11/20

Middletown Borough Council is expected to vote March 17 on whether to advertise to seek candidates for a new public safety officer that would replace the police chief.

Council on Nov. 19 voted 5-0 …

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Is police chief replacement near? Council might vote March 17 to seek candidates for new post

Posted

Middletown Borough Council is expected to vote March 17 on whether to advertise to seek candidates for a new public safety officer that would replace the police chief.

Council on Nov. 19 voted 5-0 to solicit candidates for the position, while at the same time saying no further action would be taken until the borough received a job description for the new position from borough solicitor Eckert Seamans.

The new public safety officer is to replace the chief of police position, now held by George Mouchette.

Mouchette in August 2018 was charged in Dauphin County Court with aggravated indecent assault without consent, criminal attempt-rape forcible compulsion, and unlawful restraint/ serious bodily injury.

Mouchette since being charged has been suspended without pay.

Middletown Police Department since then has been led by Sgt. Dennis Morris, who was appointed interim police chief by Mayor James H. Curry III the day Mouchette was charged. Council shortly after ratified Curry’s action appointing Morris interim chief.

Mouchette has been granted several continuances. As of now, his trial is scheduled to begin in county court April 20.

Council following the Nov. 19 motion had said nothing more in public or taken any further public action regarding the position.

Toward the end of council’s most recent meeting March 3, Curry brought up the issue and pushed for council to move forward with directing the borough to solicit candidates for the new position, as specified in the November motion.

“At the time of our next meeting March 17 it will be nearly four months since that motion was made,” Curry said.

Curry also questioned why the proposed job description was not being discussed by council in open session.

“Is that an executive session topic?” Curry asked.

Solicitor Jim Diamond responded that the job description is an executive session topic because it has to do with “personnel.”

Council President Angela Lloyd told the Press & Journal on Monday that council had received the job description from the solicitor in mid-December.

Council had discussed the job description in closed-door executive sessions “a few times” including most recently on March 3, according to Lloyd.

“We could have discussed it in open session,” Lloyd said responding to the Press & Journal questioning why council chose to discuss the job description behind closed doors.

“There was no hidden agenda. We just weren’t at a point” where council had finished revising the job description, Lloyd said. “We were going back and forth with the description itself.”

Lloyd said she was unaware of Curry ever questioning the job description being discussed behind closed doors prior to his comments March 3.

Curry had been involved with council in revising the job description, as evidenced by the mayor March 3 saying he had “no problems” with any of the changes that had been made.

Curry that night pushed Lloyd to call council back into public session after the executive session, so council could act in public session to direct the borough to solicit candidates for the public safety officer position.

Lloyd resisted doing so, saying council “may not be ready” to move forward. Council by a 5-2 vote agreed with Lloyd to adjourn the meeting to go into executive session to discuss litigation and personnel, but not to come back out in public session afterward.

Dissenting were councilors Richard Kluskiewicz and Scott Sites. Kluskiewicz had made the Nov. 19 motion to create the public safety officer position.

Sites was not yet on council, having been elected in November to a four-year term starting in January.

Kluskiewicz and Sites since being on council have called for removing Morris as interim chief, a move Curry also called for Nov. 19.

Council’s March 3 vote supporting Lloyd not wanting to come back out in public after the executive session prompted Curry to say it was time the Press & Journal  “start asking some questions” regarding the public safety officer position. He made the statement publicly as the council broke up to go into executive session

“Yes, please do,” Lloyd said in response.

The Press & Journal reached out to Curry for additional comment. Curry did not respond.

Lloyd agreed to be interviewed on the matter, after the Press & Journal reached out to her on Monday.

Lloyd initially told the Press & Journal Monday no public vote was needed by council to direct the borough to advertise for the new position, because according to Lloyd the Nov. 19 motion had given the borough authority to move forward with soliciting candidates once council finished revising the job description.

But on Tuesday Lloyd said plans to advertise for the position this week had changed, and that a council vote would be needed on March 17 in order to move forward.

Asked why council had taken since mid-December to finish revising the job description, Lloyd said it took time to adjust and make changes to the description.

Council also consulted with other people to obtain other job descriptions of the public safety officer position.

Council also needed to obtain input on the new position as it relates to the fire department from Middletown Fire Chief Kenton Whitebread Jr., Lloyd added.