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Pa. police chief expects to be fired

March 30, 1997

By LISA GRAYBEAL

Staff Writer, Waynesboro

MONT ALTO, Pa. - Mont Alto Police Chief Charles Mills said he expects to be fired by Mont Alto Council members at their April 7 meeting.

Mills, who hasn't worked since December, said he'll feel "relieved" to be formally dismissed from the part-time job he's held for 11 years.

Though Council President Tom Lowson said he expects an announcement pertaining to the police chief's position will be made at the next meeting, he would not say whether Mills will be fired.

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"It's in the hands of the mayor and the independent council right now," said Borough solicitor Jeff Evans.

The Council hired Chambersburg attorney Thomas Finucane to investigate the matter with Mont Alto Mayor Frank Gilreath.

The two are trying to determine the problems and put them in the right order, Gilreath said.

"It's all spelled out with Charlie. It's up to him," Gilreath said.

The chief has been the target of debate among Mont Alto officials for the past year. Officials have accused Mills of working more than the 32 allotted hours, failing to cooperate with his supervisor - the mayor - and failing to do his job.

The Council has repeatedly sent Mills certified letters requesting him to submit reports and respond to questions.

At the February meeting, the Council directed Mills to submit his January police report to the mayor in seven days.

Mills did not respond.

"They send me these certified letters but they haven't talked to me," Mills said. "Not one person in that group has ever talked to me about this."

Gilreath said he "did a lot of talking" with Mills in the police station about the matter.

Mills claims he stopped showing up for work because the mayor didn't schedule him. He said the Council then sent a letter to Franklin County Control requesting them to call state police in an emergency.

"If I'm not scheduled, then how can I answer calls?'' Mills asks. "I don't understand why they want a report for January when I didn't even work."

Gilreath said he asked Mills to provide him with a schedule for January, but Mills only filled out two weeks and didn't complete the rest. Gilreath said he also provided Mills with a copy of the February calendar that he never filled out.

Before Gilreath was elected mayor, Mills said he used to set his own hours. He said he would purposely work different times every day so that nobody knew whether he was on or off duty.

The Council's complaints reach beyond scheduling problems.

Last year, Mills was suspended for a week because he allegedly didn't enforce a barking dog nuisance ordinance.

A petition signed by 68 residents claim that Mills' reports to the Council "have shown to be untrustworthy."

Records also show that Mills has violated more than a dozen times the Council's policy that he may work only 32 hours a week.

But Mills said he was under the impression that he was supposed to serve as a "peace officer" for the town, not a police officer.

"I knew the people well. I trusted them and they trusted me," Mills said, who admitted trying to settle matters among residents by talking to them first before arresting them.

Mills said he often provided Mont Alto residents with his home telephone number or beeper number. He said he responded to numerous calls late at night on his own time.

"I was never there for the money," Mills said. "I always looked out for the people."

Though state police are responding to emergencies and occasionally patrol the area, Mills said they will not respond to dog complaints, community disputes, burning ordinances and other non-emergency situations.

"They cannot do the job of the local police officer as professional and as good as they are," Mills said.

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