Hollidaysburg chief put on leave

Longtime Hollidaysburg Police Chief Jeffrey Ketner has not been fired but instead put on paid leave, borough labor attorney Dave Andrews said on Saturday.

Andrews said Ketner has been on leave since Friday morning and will continue to receive full pay and benefits. Andrews could not say why Ketner was placed on leave or how long his leave of absence will be.

The Mirror reported in a front-page story Saturday based on information from sources that Ketner had been fired, but Andrews said he was not terminated nor did he resign.

Borough officials did not return calls from the Mirror on Friday. Councilman Joe Dodson declined to comment when he was seen by a Mirror reporter leaving the police department office Friday morning. A Mirror reporter waited for hours outside Borough Manager Mark Shroyer’s office on Friday afternoon in an attempt to contact him but was told she had to leave when the municipal building closed. Shroyer did not come out of his office while the reporter was present.

“Chief Ketner is still an employee of the borough as we speak,” Andrews said.

Calls to borough officials Saturday about the situation were not returned. Ketner was also not available to comment on the situation.

It could not be confirmed if the decision to put Ketner on leave was a result of Thursday’s Borough Council meeting, or even if it was an official action of council.

Council called an executive session after its meeting Thursday, and President Joseph Pompa publicly said that its members would not return to the council chambers to vote or discuss the issue at hand.

If council voted to put Ketner on leave during its executive session, the action would be in violation of Pennsylvania’s Sunshine Act, which requires such votes be conducted in public to allow constituents to raise concerns and express opinions about official council actions, said Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association Media Law Counsel Melissa Melewsky.

If council returned to chambers and voted out of the executive session, it is technically in compliance with the law, but it is still concerning because no members of the public would have been present, she said.

A Mirror attempt to get information from the Borough Council minutes on Friday was unsuccessful because the employee who recorded the information had left early for the day.

Ketner has served the borough police force for more than three decades and is a well-known figure in Hollidaysburg. Assistant Chief David Gehret is overseeing the force while Ketner is on leave.