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Washington Township, Pa., police chief quits

July 07, 1997

By RICHARD F. BELISLE

Staff Writer, Waynesboro

WAYNE HEIGHTS, Pa. - Kurt E. Braun, saying allegations against him were "picky," resigned Monday after 14 years as chief of the Washington Township Police Department.

Braun read a letter at Monday's meeting of the township's supervisors in which he said that township officials had told him that he could quit or face 45 misconduct charges stemming from a six-month investigation of his 14-officer department.

Braun said he didn't stand a chance if he chose to fight the charges, which he called "picky," and "back-stabbing."

Because Braun resigned, none of the charges will be made public, said Richard Walsh, township attorney.

Braun, 57, said after the meeting that it wasn't the charges that forced him to resign, but the department's working environment. "It hurts when your officers say they have no confidence in you," he said.

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Braun earned $43,000 a year as chief. His severance package includes his salary through September, said Richard Eigenbrode, chairman of the board of supervisors.

Braun, in a three-page letter to the supervisors, said Township Manager Michael Christopher told him to resign or face the charges.

He said in his letter that he also was told by Christopher that the supervisors were unanimous in their ultimatum and that all of his police officers said they had no confidence in his ability to run the department.

"I have searched my soul and cannot identify any deliberate or malicious act or acts that I may have committed to warrant this action," Braun said in his letter. "I have no doubt made unconscious mistakes or used bad judgment at times."

He walked out of the meeting after he finished reading the letter.

He said afterward that a "great deal was made of these charges. If you look at anybody close enough, long enough you can find something. It took them six months to get me."

The supervisors met in executive session for 25 minutes before accepting Braun's resignation. Sgt. Barry Keller was named interim chief, Eigenbrode said.

In February the supervisors hired Waynesboro attorney John Lisko at $100 an hour to investigate the police department. Christopher said Lisko's bill came to more than $5,000.

Several citizens demanded to know why Braun was fired.

"How can you decide to fire someone like this without the community knowing what's going on?" said Irene Blackburn. "He's done a wonderful job and put in so many hours of his own time. He will be missed."

"What's happening here?" said James Winebrenner. "You level charges against him and don't tell him what those charges are. How can you defend yourself if you don't know what the charges are? You've taken 14 years of service and flushed them down the drain."

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