The Morrisville Borough Council, Monday night, approved the hiring of a part-time officer and suspended one officer with pay in unanimous votes.
The two motions were added to the “action” agenda list subsequent to a break in the council meeting which lasted approximately 35 minutes for an executive session while members met with borough officials, namely Police Chief George McClay, to discuss the recent arrest of a borough officer, Michael Pitcher, in a closed door executive session.
When council returned to restart the public portion of the meeting, a motion made by Council President Debbie Smith to add two items to the evening’s agenda was approved unanimously in voice votes.
Prior to adding the agenda items, Solicitor Michael Levine provided a synopsis of the executive session, saying a discussion about a borough employee related issue involving the police department occurred.
The first item, which this publication reported on earlier in the day, was the approval of hiring part-time officer Gary Forrester which passed 8-0.
The second motion went right to the heart of a number of questions posed in various forms by members of the public on social media and in E-mails to this reporter with regards to civil employees being suspended with pay.
The only action for council to take at this time is to suspend the officer with pay because the officer has due process rights, said Levine citing the Confidence in Law Enforcement Act (signed into law in January 20090), which enables municipalities, to take action(s) when a public safety officer is officially charged with a crime (s). Thus allowing for the suspension of Pitcher, in this instance.
Specifically, the law says “A law enforcement officer charged with an offense that would prohibit employment as such under section three shall immediately be suspended from employment until final disposition of the charge (s).
The vote to suspend Pitcher was 8-0.
Borough officials said members of council have been advised by the state attorneys general not to comment publicly about the now suspended with pay officer until his criminal charges have been adjudicated.
Prior to the council meeting, McClay said with regards to Pitcher’s continued employment, a process separate and apart from the criminal proceedings will be taking place involving borough officials. He explained, there is a three-step process which will also include a written report to be completed by the Mayor based upon an interview Pitcher take will take part in.
- Garrity Hearing
- Loudermill Hearing
- Council Votes on Mayor’s recommendation
McClay said public employees are afforded certain rights and separate from the criminal investigation the process noted above should “take about a month” once it begins, with the final steps involving the Mayors recommendation and a council vote based on that suggestion.
Due to the fact McClay is a witness in the criminal court proceedings, Morrisville labor officials will supervise the administrative process, he said.
As of publication, the Garrity Hearing has yet to be scheduled.
Mayor David Rivella was not present for the council meeting. No reason for his absence was provided.
Editor’s note: For an informative read covering the nuances of a Garrity Hearing click here