ASHLEY — Councilman Don Sipple told Council President Joe Gorham at Tuesday’s regular meeting that he’s frustrated with how decisions are made regarding the police department.
“There’s so many issues on table that are not being handled in a timely manner,” he said. Residents who packed the meeting room in the borough’s fire hall encouraged Sipple to open up about his concerns, cheering when he did.
Gorham asked Sipple why he has never called a personnel meeting to address the problems.
“That gets nowhere,” Sipple said. “The police chief tells his department who they can and can’t talk to. They’re afraid of getting suspended. There’s no leadership, it’s all dictatorship. It’s terrible.” Ashley’s police chief is John Bell.
Sipple and a few audience members including police officer an incoming Councilman Joe McGlynn asked why police department “meetings” were held recently in the back room of Kelsey’s Bar. “I think pizza and beer was the reason for that,” said Gorham.
Councilwoman Sharon Keefe protested that she didn’t talk business at the bar, and was only there to eat pizza.
In defense of the department, Councilwoman Stacy McGovern asked the residents to recall the work the department did in this week’s drug bust. “Is there anyone here who doesn’t feel they did a good job this week?”
The borough maintains a finance, personnel and police committee, each consisting of three members of council. Sipple said council as a whole should get together to make decisions. The job of overseeing the police department is usually the mayor’s responsibility, but when Mayor Rick Oravic was a no-show during the 2011 flooding, council took over, Gorham said after the meeting.
Gorham advised Sipple to join the police commission so he can stay abreast of police department issues. McGovern gave up her spot on the commission to make room for Sipple.
James Barberio, owner of Ashley Auto said he was asked by the police department three months ago to tow a motorcycle, but the department has yet to tell him who the owner is. Gorham told Barberio that council couldn’t provide him with that information, but an officer would visit him to give him the name.
After the meeting, Gorham said council couldn’t discuss other issues brought up by Barberio because of an ongoing litigation.
Gorham also said he bought eight trays of pizza for the police department and the fire department three weeks earlier as a good will gesture. “It was a gesture of kindness for the good work their doing.”
Council held an executive session before the work session, which was followed by the regular meeting. Gorham said the executive session was to discuss property, personnel and litigation matters.