Wants public meeting about police issues
— Mayor Ed Langendoerfer is at his wit's end.
"This is a matter for the taxpayers," said the mayor.
He is frustrated by what he sees as a lack of action by the borough council when it comes to dealing with the ongoing issues involving the police department.
The well-documented issues involve the council appointing Rick Southerton as the new police commissioner for Honesdale.
The council made that appointment without any public notice, public discussion or even a job description.
On Oct. 21, Langendoerfer made a written request to borough council president F.J. Monaghan asking for an immediate meeting of all council members, Southerton, Sgt. Sean LeStrange and any other police officers who wanted to attend.
Langendoerfer said he thinks the meeting needs to take place and that a public discussion be held to answer many questions.
But Monaghan countered with a letter of his own and said there should be no such meeting.
He said the mayor, Southerton and LeStrange should "take this opportunity to sit down privately and thoroughly discuss the matter."
Monaghan had first indicted a meeting would be held with three members of the council — himself, Scott Smith and Bob Jennings. However, that apparently changed and now he wants it done privately.
That meeting was supposed to be held Thursday morning but did not take place.
"I will not, therefore, be participating in this meeting ...," wrote Monaghan in a letter. "Again, I would urge the mayor, the commissioner and the Sergent to to meet privately in order to resolve these issues."
That does not sit well with the mayor.
"I don't think it is an internal matter," said the mayor.
Langendoerfer said the council has not been open with the public concerning this issue and that has happened from the very beginning.
He pointed out that nine people were interviewed for the job of police chief. Those interviews lasted for just 15 minutes and when they were over, the council immediately voted unanimously to recommend Southerton.
"They didn't even have a discussion," said the mayor.
Then, after the Honesdale Civil Service Commission refused to interview Southerton because he is not certified to be a police officer in Pennsylvania, they reversed course.
The council then decided to hire Southerton as a police commissioner. Once again it was a unanimous vote and once again there was no discussion.
"They don't want to answer any questions," said Langendoerfer.
But the mayor says many questions need to be answered and those answers have to come from the council because they are ultimately responsible for the entire situation.
In fact, Langendoerfer pointed out that he was first contacted by borough solicitor Rich Henry and informed of the planned meeting between the three council members and others.
"Why is the solicitor arranging the meeting?" said the mayor. "The council should set the meeting and inform the solicitor. And the taxpayers are paying for Rich Henry to arrange the meeting."
That, says the mayor, is one of the key issues.
He said it is the taxpayers who are footing the bill and believes he represents them when wanting to get answers from members of the council.
"It is frustrating to me that they don't want to sit down and talk about it," said Langendoerfer.
He said there are a myriad of questions which need to be asked and, more importantly, answered by the council members.
The first, he said, is what are the job duties of the new police commissioner.
"We don't know what his job duties are," said the mayor.
Because of that, he said the officers at the department have no idea how to train a police commissioner. Since there is no job description, the mayor said it is not fair to the officers who have been instructed to train Southerton.
It is also unclear what the duties are for the commissioner, said Langendoerfer.
The mayor said those issues fall squarely on the shoulders of the council members, who he said are avoiding the issues — and answering questions in public.
"These questions need to be answered by the council," said Langendoerfer.
He also wants the council to answer why it decided to hire a police commissioner, which is contrary to the current contract with the police union.
"Where it that going to get us?" he asked.
For Langendoerfer, it is the citizens of the borough who he said will ultimately suffer when it comes to lawsuits, unfair labor practices and many other issues.
"I am not asking questions for the mayor, I am asking questions for the taxpayers," said Langendoerfer.