Honesdale part-time police ‘curveball’

By OWEN WALSH
Posted 12/4/19

HONESDALE, PA — At a special budget meeting on Monday, November 25, council president Mike Augello was surprised to learn that—according to Honesdale’s labor …

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Honesdale part-time police ‘curveball’

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HONESDALE, PA — At a special budget meeting on Monday, November 25, council president Mike Augello was surprised to learn that—according to Honesdale’s labor attorneys—part-time police officers now need to be hired from a civil service eligibility list, just like full-time officers. Hiring from such a list affords part-time police more comprehensive civil service protections, and developing the list does not happen quickly.

“So we have six months before we can [hire more part-timers], that’s quite a change,” Augello said. He described the news as a “curveball.”
Jim Jennings asked what would happen if a current part-timer resigns and leaves the department down one person. “We have to wait,” Augello said.

The change came as a result of a PA Supreme Court case that took place last summer. The case, Deforte v. Borough of Worthington, involved two part-time police officers who were fired without due process. The court found that civil service protections embodied in PA’s Borough Code and Tenure Act apply uniformly to all police departments.

Borough secretary Judith Poltanis said that the issue also has to do with Honesdale’s scheduling of officers.

“Our part-timers have a set schedule, therefore they’re afforded civil service protection,” she said.
The Supreme Court decision has left some lingering questions statewide, but for now the borough’s officials are recommending that the council stay on the “precautionary side” and take the labor attorneys’ advice.

“I think there’s a terrible jumble about what [the court’s decision] really means, but if you’re getting input from your labor council saying that you have to hire off of a civil service list, even for part-timers, then that’s really what you have to do,” said solicitor Richard Henry. “It also changes the borough’s capability of dismissing [a part-timer]—they have civil service protection—that’s effectively the only problem, or the biggest consequence.”

According to Augello, an eligibility list involves a pool of 10 applicants, the borough has the choice of the top three candidates, if one of those top three gets hired or pulls out, then another of the other seven moves into the top three. The borough has already allocated just under $12,000, which will go toward developing an eligibility list, though until Monday’s meeting, the councilors intended to use that money only for potentially hiring full-time officers.

The council voted unanimously to direct the borough’s civil service commission to begin the process of establishing a civil service list.

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