Council to discuss police personnel

The Hollidaysburg Borough Council will meet Tuesday to discuss “matters related to personnel in the Hollidaysburg Borough Police Department,” according to an official meeting notice posted Wednesday.

The meeting will be held at 5 p.m. in the borough building’s council chambers. Members of the public are encouraged to attend.

Late last week, longtime Police Chief Jeffrey Ketner was placed on paid leave after council’s regular monthly meeting on July 10. The circumstances that led to Ketner being placed on leave have not been revealed, but he is still on the borough’s payroll, according to Hollidaysburg’s labor attorney David Andrews.

The meeting notice does not specify what personnel issues will be discussed Tuesday or if council will take any official action. It could not be confirmed by Wednesday evening if Ketner will be present at the meeting.

Ketner is represented by Altoona attorney Michael Wagner, who said Wednesday that “the parties (involved) are discussing.”

He declined to comment further on the status of the case.

Wagner told the Mirror on Monday that he is hopeful that Ketner will be back on the force.

“Chief Ketner has always been by-the-book and above reproach,” he said.

Borough officials have been tight-lipped since news broke late last week about Ketner’s leave. Multiple calls to borough administrators, including Mayor John Stultz, and council members have not been returned.

Councilman Joseph Dodson hung up on a Mirror reporter last week.

Ketner also has declined comment when contacted.

After initial inaccurate reports that Ketner had been fired, only Andrews has spoken for the borough, saying the chief is on paid leave.

Ketner’s leave reportedly began Thursday night after the Borough Council retired to an executive session. Because only elected officials were present at the session, there is no official record of any votes or official council action being taken.

Members of the public present at Thursday’s council meeting were told that council members would not return to chambers to vote or discuss any business from the executive session.

If Ketner’s leave was voted on during the executive session, that action would be in violation of the state’s Sunshine Act, which mandates that official votes must take place in public, said Terry Mutchler, the executive director of the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records.

If an agency is found in violation of the Sunshine Act, the participating officials could be held personally liable for the fees of prosecution and subject to a fine between $100 and $1,000 for a first offense, Mutchler said. For a second offense, the fine can be up to $2,000.

That money would have to be paid by the participating officials. Taxpayer funds cannot be used to pay for Sunshine Act violations.

Any individual or organization can file a civil suit within 30 days of a meeting in the county court of common pleas and allege Sunshine Act violations, according to the Digital Media Law Project.

Mutchler said the courts are now cracking down on cases with the Sunshine Act, after giving organizations some leeway early on to adjust to the rules.

“It appears that they have now deemed the learning process over, and fines are being imposed,” she said.

Mirror Staff Writer Paige Minemyer is at 946-7535.