WILKES-BARRE — City council Thursday approved the hiring of the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association at a cost of $26,212 to conduct an independent review and assessment of the police department in the midst of a public feud between the union and the chief.
The association based in Harrisburg estimated it will take 10 weeks to complete its work and make recommendations to improve the work environment and bring the department in line with best practices.
Councilman Bill Barrett along with council chairwoman Beth Gilbert advocated for an outside review after the administration disciplined a number of officers for policy violations and last month fired the vice president of Wilkes-Barre Police Benevolent Association. Officer Dan Duffy was terminated for allegedly threatening Mayor Tony George and city Administrator Ted Wampole in an email while defending a union member.
Barrett, a former city police chief, reiterated the need for experts to step in despite protests by Bob Kadluboski against spending taxpayers’ money on the review. Kadluboski placed the blame on the mayor who appointed Marcella Lendacky chief when he took office last year.
“It’s very painful, I agree with you, to watch what has been going on,” said Barrett. “It pains all of us. It especially pains me having been a member of that department for 28 years and see the department be dysfunctional as it is right now. For whatever reasons it is.”
Barrett defended paying for the review as a way to stop the legal bills, reaching tens of thousands of dollars a year, that the city has been paying in response to numerous grievances filed by the union.
Several other resolutions were approved by council Thursday:
• Permitting the open consumption of alcoholic beverages for the Old Fashioned Holiday Market on Public Square on Dec. 1 and 2.
• Appointing John Marconi to the Wilkes-Barre Parking Authority for a five-year term expiring Dec. 31, 2022.
• Correcting the expiration date for the term of Parking Authority member James Conahan to Dec. 31, 2020, from Dec. 31, 2019.
• Spending $9,129 for a nylon barrier net from Cascade Nets Inc. of Ferndale, Wash., for the Hollenback Golf Course.
• $113,964 to Axon Enterprise Inc., of Scottsdale, Ariz., for approximately 70 Tasers for the police department under a five-year plan at $22,793 a year that includes cartridges through the state cooperative purchasing program COSTARS.
• $28,766 for the purchase of vehicle extrication tools or Jaws of Life for the fire department from Susquehanna Fire Equipment Co., of Dewart, through COSTARS.
• $24,120 for the purchase of fire/rescue portable radios and batteries from Industrial Electronics Inc., of Scranton.
• $44,855 for the purchase of turnout gear for the fire department from Susquehanna Fire Equipment Co.
• $38,189 for the purchase of a command vehicle for the assistant fire chief from New Holland Ford through COSTARS. An emergency two-way radio system will be installed by Industrial Electronics Inc. for $1,811.
• $9,740 for miscellaneous fire equipment from Witmer Public Safety Group Inc., of Coatesville.
The fire department purchases will be covered with funds from the Community Development Office.