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Wayne Independent - Honesdale, PA
  • Tough situation has become more difficult as a result of actions

  • Fifteen minutes.

    That's how long each candidate for police chief in Honesdale was interviewed by the borough council on Wednesday evening.
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    Fifteen minutes.
    That's how long each candidate for police chief in Honesdale was interviewed by the borough council on Wednesday evening.
    Fifteen minutes.
    That's less time than it takes to drive from Honesdale to Carbondale. It's less time than the council recently spent on discussing line painting in the borough.
    Fifteen minutes just isn't that much time.
    Nevertheless, after the interviews, a motion was made and passed to hire Rick Southerton as the new police chief. It still has to go through the Civil Service Commission but how that process will work remains unclear.
    The point here has nothing to do with Southerton. He's proven to be a solid member of the Texas Township Board of Supervisors and is well known for his role as an FBI agent involved in the "Cash for Kids" scandal.
    There's nothing which indicates he isn't a good candidate for the job.
    However, that isn't the point.
    What really matters is how the council members seemingly had their minds made up even before the interviews.
    To conduct so many interviews and then to make and pass a motion so quickly indicates little discussion was needed.
    Were their minds made up?
    We may never know.
    One person commented to us that even getting a job at a fast-food restaurant generally requires more than a 15 minute interview. Sometimes it even requires a second interview.
    Nothing against fast-food workers, but being the police chief is just a little higher up on the totem pole.
    Page 2 of 4 - The council not only did the taxpayers an injustice, it also did an injustice to the candidates.
    Elected officials always say how they need to run the government more like a business.
    Apparently that means only when it is convenient.
    In real business, when an important job is up for grabs, there is a pretty standard process in place.
    First, you gather all of the resumes and narrow them down based on those qualifications.
    In many cases, telephone interviews are conducted with a fair amount of the candidates, which narrows the field even further.
    Generally, two to five candidates are selected and then personal interviews are arranged. Sometimes, those interviews can last multiple hours or even take an entire working day.
    Once those are done, then a decision is made.
    That certainly wasn't the case with the council members, who were apparently determined to make a decision on Wednesday night.
    But were they thinking it through clearly?
    We say they were not.
    This isn't just about the position of police chief. It's also about the ongoing contract negotiations with the police union.
    Sure, unions are sometimes overbearing and demand too much.
    But in this case, they are doing what they were designed for — trying to protect jobs.
    The problem for the council — and the taxpayers — is the union would appear to have a lot of fodder to file grievances and lawsuits.
    You can almost bet those are coming quickly.
    Page 3 of 4 - It's hard to ignore the fact the council conducted closed meetings which by all accounts were against the law. It's also hard to ignore the fact that Southerton's resume was touted by the president of the council during one of those sessions. In fact, it appears he was ready to hire Southerton that night without even advertising for the position.
    It may not be illegal (or it may be), but it's certainly not ethical and a huge disservice to the taxpayers of the borough.
    For his part, Southerton says he heard about the chief opening and immediately took it to borough hall. From there, it made its way into the executive session. We have no reason to doubt that's what took place.
    But does the council not understand the importance of the position of chief of police?
    We find that hard to imagine.
    So what was at work here?
    Politics, more than likely.
    It seems the council was determined to go outside the ranks of the department.
    Why?
    That is a good question.
    It's hard to ignore the fact that more than one councilman has had contact with the police in not-so-flattering ways.
    Could that have a bearing on the decision?
    One would hope not, but it can't be ruled out.
    There's also the political angle which is at play.
    It's no secret that president F.J. Monaghan and councilman Jim Brennan are both involved with the local Democratic party.
    Page 4 of 4 - When Southerton ran in Texas Township, he made the statement he might lose because he was running as a Democrat.
    Could that have played a role in what transpired?
    We would hope that's not the case, but with the secrecy that has been involved in this issue, anything is possible.
    This entire chain of events is unfortunate and the big losers stand to be the taxpayers of the borough.
    With so much ammunition, it's almost a given lawsuits are going to be filed. That will cost the taxpayers a pretty penny and it could wreck the entire negotiations process.
    And it could all have been avoided if everything would have been done publicly and the right processes had been followed.
    Everyone is a loser in this mess.
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