Last updated: August 07. 2014 12:05AM - 2185 Views
By James O’Malley jomalley@civitasmedia.com

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PLYMOUTH — An accusation of ticket fixing publicly made is the subject of an investigation by “an outside agency,” Plymouth Borough Mayor Dorothy Petrosky said Wednesday.

Borough Councilman Gary Kochinski alleged during a Tuesday public meeting that Council Chairman Thomas McTague routinely voids tickets written by police in enforcement of borough ordinances.

Petrosky said Wednesday she does not have any firsthand information about the claims, but had heard about them. She declined further comment on the matter Wednesday, nor would she disclose the name of the investigating agency.

However, Kochinski said the Luzerne County District Attorney’s Office is conducting the investigation. District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis could not be reached Wednesday for comment.

Between 70 and 80 percent of tickets for ordinance citations in Plymouth are voided, Kochinski said Wednesday, resulting in meager citation revenues averaging about $800 per year. That means the borough would miss out on as much as $3,000 in potential revenue annually.

Plymouth police declined to comment. District Judge Donald Whittaker, whose office processes borough citations, said he was precluded by law from commenting.

But Petrosky said she feels the more important issue to emerge from the controversy is the borough’s underfunding the police department.

Since she took office, Petrosky said, she’s had trouble getting the police the equipment they need to do their job. She echoed Kochinski’s remarks from the meeting about officers cobbling computers together with used, sometimes scavenged spare parts in order for the machines to function.

Much of the funding for department equipment comes from citizen groups like Plymouth Alive, she said.

“We’ve been scrambling,” she said. “We’ve had a lot of donations.”

Kochinski said when he first joined the council eight months ago, police morale was low, and officers used broken chairs and secondhand or personally purchased office equipment and supplies.

At least, he said, the council has ordered new chairs.

“It’s been let go,” Kochinski said.

What’s more, he added, some officer training has fallen by the wayside, and the department is understaffed. Despite averaging hundreds of calls each month, the department often has only one officer on duty, he said.

“It’s physically impossible for him to keep up with all the calls and paperwork,” he said.

The department, which polices a borough of some 6,500 citizens, employs three full-time officers and a number of part-timers to provide 24/7 police coverage.

In recent years, crime has kept the barebones department busy with four murders in 2012 alone, including a triple homicide and a fatal shooting inside a bar.

And the police department, Kochinski added, is far from the one-square-mile borough’s only issue. He said the new council was also met with expenditure and budget reports in “disarray.”

Tax revenues have since increased, he said, and currently things are “a heck of a lot better.”

The mayor didn’t go quite so far, but said the new council has been helpful.

“We’re taking baby steps, but we are moving forward right now,” Petrosky said. “It’s gratifying to see things moving forward.”

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