A Morrisville Borough Council motion to fire suspended with pay Corporal Michael Pitcher Tuesday night failed in a tied vote.
The police veteran is currently on paid suspension as he awaits his trial scheduled for March 24 at 9 a.m in Doylestown.
Debate about the number of police officers employed and working the streets of the borough has been an ongoing issue reaching pitch levels just before election day and as the current new council majority was sworn in this past January.
The new council voted to approve a recent full time hire of an officer who was furloughed in 2019.
Chief of Police, George McClay has been pushing for Pitcher’s termination since last July, multiple sources have repeatedly said throughout last year. He has increased pressure for the move to be made after a new council majority took power last month.
McClay has intimated a number of times on the record firing Pitcher would be helpful to the department in terms of staffing and police presence voicing concerns for community safety.
McClay said he was “frustrated” with council’s stance last year when they voted to suspend Pitcher instead of terminating him.
At the time, the chief said “We are maintaining our manpower on the street to service our citizens while being at very minimal staffing levels.”
Morrisville’s labor attorney, solicitor, past and present officials were concerned with the optics involved in firing the officer and approved suspending him instead. The potentiality for a law suit filed against the borough for wrongful termination was and still remains a concern. Some council members have referred to the situations as having a “ghost employee” on the payroll, which officials said tied their hands with replacing the slot on the police manning table.
Borough Solicitor, Flager & Associates, PC representative Michael Levine said, the only action for council to take at the time was to suspend Pitcher with pay because the officer has due process rights citing the Confidence in Law Enforcement Act -signed into law in January 2009. The measure enables municipalities to take action when a public safety officer is accused of a crime.
Firing him was not an option, then, but with a new majority in place that stance is now changed, or so many thought.
Council President Ted Parker, vice president Robert Paul, Scott Robinson, and Helen Hlahol voted for the motion as members Justin Bowers, Mike Yager, Eileen Dreisbach and Nancy Sherlock voted against the motion.
Levine said Morrisville’s Mayor, who was in support of the motion, could not vote on the motion because he oversees the department.
Prior to the vote, Ravella commended the motion and spoke of the cost savings that could come the borough’s way.
Councilman Scott Robinson said before the vote that it was a bold decision that needed to be made.
Pitcher’s Attorney , Louis Busico said Tuesday night after learning of councils planned item agenda, “Michael Pitcher nearly lost his life protecting the citizens of Bucks County; to attempt to terminate his employment in this fashion-prior to any conclusion of his pending case is highly inappropriate and in my opinion unjust.”
Attempts to reach Prosecutor for the Attorney Generals office for comment were unsuccessful Tuesday night.
McClay did not respond to an after meeting request for comment Tuesday night.
An update to this developing story is expected Wednesday.