KINGSTON — Mayor James Haggerty believes an administrative policy on organizations requesting to hire police officers for security has not been followed.
Haggerty said Police Chief Keith Keiper on Wednesday voluntarily accepted a paid administrative leave of absence while an “internal review” of prior requests and police assignments is conducted. The review by Municipal Administrator Paul Keating is expected to take several weeks, Haggerty said.
The mayor said his interest in reviewing the policy grew after he talked to a Times Leader reporter checking on a report that Keiper had retired Monday morning. He did not.
“It all developed in a hurry after our phone call,” Haggerty said about a preliminary review.
He said an administrative policy was put in place in January 2009 on requests from organizations and businesses seeking police to conduct security at events. Requests are made by the Wyoming Valley West School District and Wyoming Seminary for athletic and social events, organizers of the Irem Shrine Circus held at the109th Field Artillery Armory and businesses for security on weekends, Haggerty said.
Pre-approval is required before officers can volunteer for special detail on a sign-up sheet. The request is then forwarded to the Kingston Finance Department for billing and payment.
“I’ve seen documents that were processed properly, but I’ve seen others that were not,” Haggerty said.
Haggerty said pre-approvals came from Keiper and/or Assistant Police Chief Dan Hunsinger, who retired in April to become police chief in Forty Fort. The mayor was quick to point out that Keiper may not have handled pre-approvals and designated the task to subordinates other than Hunsinger.
“Right now, we don’t know if Chief Keiper or Hunsinger were doing the pre-approvals, or someone else in the department,” Haggerty said. “But Keiper is the police chief and ultimately responsible. The best way we thought to go forward is if Keiper took an administrative leave for an internal review.”
Keiper and Hunsinger could not be reached for comment on Thursday.
Wyoming Valley West Superintendent Chuck Suppon said the school district utilizes Kingston police for security at football games, graduation and dances held at the middle school on Chester Street in Kingston. He said all school-sponsored events involves a formal request to Kingston for officers that includes signed checks.
Suppon said he did recently discover that one dance at the middle school involved the payment of cash to officers who signed receipts.
The superintendent said he could not respond to dances sponsored by different athletic booster clubs because those dances were not school sponsored.
“I can say it was done for some football games but not all football games,” Haggerty said. “This policy is in place to make sure our officers are covered by liability insurance. We wanted to know where our officers are working and to make sure our town is protected in the event an officer is hurt.”
Last month, it was reported that information related to the Wyoming Valley West student activities fund was turned over to the Internal Revenue Service for review.
Suppon said he has no knowledge that the IRS is examining the fund.