Hollidaysburg should better manage friction

Public officials generate respect, confidence and trust in their job performance by their ability to work cooperatively with others who are serving their community.

That doesn’t require them to agree on every issue. In fact, disagreement often paves the correct path to a solution, while government-by-rubber-stamping sometimes opens a window to problems later.

But it’s officials’ ability to work together and trust in each other that is the basis for a well-run municipality.

While it can’t now be said that Hollidaysburg Borough government is in disarray, developments in recent days indicate that there’s cause for concern by residents, going forward.

Residents need to pay attention to what transpires, not only regarding the police chief position that has become such a source of controversy in recent weeks, but also in terms of fallout from that issue.

Trust and confidence that’s lost oftentimes is difficult to rebuild. That’s not a situation that Hollidaysburg residents voted for; that’s not what they deserve to receive.

It can’t be denied that the news media look forward to information leaks. Leaks enable reporters to obtain a fuller perspective of issues with which units of government are dealing, resulting in more effective reporting.

Sometimes leaks expose questionable practices or wrongdoing.

That doesn’t imply that the Mirror is suspicious that questionable actions are in play in Hollidaysburg. However, the purported leaks dealing with legal executive sessions held regarding the vacant police chief position are indicative that all’s not well with governmental leaders’ dealings with one another.

Voters should keep track of what’s going on during this year before the 2019 municipal elections.

Friction over the police chief position apparently evolved — and has continued to increase — as the weeks have passed since former chief Dave Gehret retired in January.

Gehret, a 34-year veteran of the local police force, had been chief since 2014.

Since Gehret’s retirement, Rodney Estep has been serving as acting chief, while also having applied to succeed Gehret.

But the borough council wasn’t wrong in seeking other applications; that’s actually the standard practice for which units of government opt.

For Hollidaysburg, the police chief finalists apparently were Estep and Tyrone Borough Police Chief John Romeo.

Romeo reportedly ended up declining the position, but controversy exists over why he decided to withdraw. The council reportedly plans to hire Estep during a meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. April 12 at the borough building.

Local residents who make up a group called Hollidaysburg Community Watchdog say they have received leaked executive session information, and reportedly so have some other borough residents.

Regarding the leaks, council President Joseph Pompa said he has contacted the state Ethics Commission and Attorney General’s Office, but whether the leaks actually are illegal appears questionable.

The Watchdog group has alleged that the police chief issue is “rooted in vindictiveness, cronyism and an ongoing attempt to weaken public oversight of borough governance.”

Whether or not that’s true, such fears portend future unrest within the borough government, unless borough leaders work quickly to put the friction to rest. Hollidaysburg needs a commitment to such an objective.

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