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It's time to work out cops' labor complaint

Was it intimidation or just frustration?

Was it intimidation or just frustration?

August 09, 2002

That's the question the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board must answer when it investigates Chambersburg Mayor Tom Newcomer's actions in a negotiating session with the borough's police department. We hope the police and the mayor will cooperate with the state conciliator assigned to attempt a solution prior to a foprmal hearing set for Oct. 11.

The complaint arose out of a session Newcomer and police officers held to try to forge a new contract. The mayor said that before the borough could explain its offer in detail, the police indicated they wanted to go to binding arbitration.

The police claim Newcomer cursed at them, a charge he's denied despite apologizing to them and to the borough. Since then the chief of police has written the borough council a letter complaining that the mayor, who by law supervises the police department, has interfered in police matters.

On Aug. 2, we said that it was the responsibility of the borough council's members to resolve the issue, by deciding if Police Chief Michael DeFrank is the person they want to lead the department. If so, they must give him a vote of confidence and help create a new working relationship between the mayor and the chief.

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At this point, we would also ask the police to do everything in their power to help settle this before it goes to a formal hearing. Not only will it cost the borough money to defend the mayor at a full hearing, but it's likely to continue to feed the ill feelings on both sides.

That's something the borough doesn't need as it oversees important issues like crime control, the new rental-inspection ordinance and plans for a new $17.3 million power plant.

As for the police contract talks, we recommend that they be handled by professional negotiators who realize that getting emotionally upset during a session only delays progress toward a final settlement.

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