HOLLIDAYSBURG - The Hollidaysburg Borough Council unanimously accepted the retirement of longtime Police Chief Jeffrey Ketner on Tuesday.
According to an agreement between Ketner, his attorney Stephen Wicks, and the borough, on Aug. 1, Ketner will earn a $10,000 lump sum payment, health insurance payments for five years and payment for vacation hours and sick days earned to date. Ketner has accrued $5,000 in sick days and $9,825.00 in vacation time.
Ketner will be able to choose in February 2016 if he wishes to have the remaining three-and-a-half years of hospitalization payments in a lump sum or as continued payments, according to the agreement.
Mirror photo by J.D. Cavrich
About 75 residents crammed into the Hollidaysburg Borough Council chambers Tuesday for a meeting in which council voted to accept the retirement of police chief Jeffrey Ketner, who was placed on leave last week.
Borough resident Richard Reimer (right) looks for answers from councilman Joseph Dodson after borough council’s meeting to vote on police chief Jeffrey Ketner’s retirement. In back is acting police chief David Gehret.
Mirror photos by J.D. Cavrich
Hollidaysburg Borough Council president Joseph Pompa (left) talks with borough manager Mark Schroyer on Tuesday at council’s meeting to vote on Police Chief Jeffrey Ketner’s retirement. Pompa reiterated several times during the meeting that councilmen were under no obligation to answer residents’ questions.
The former chief will also retain ownership of his gun and gold badge under the agreement.
According to the agreement, Ketner will lose his retirement benefits if he pursues any labor lawsuits against the borough. Ketner also has the option to revoke his agreement to the terms within seven days of its execution.
Ketner's plan to retire was revealed Monday, about 10 days after he was placed on paid leave. Details about why Ketner was put on leave have been scarce, but according to a statement released Monday, Ketner is leaving the borough because of a difference of opinion on how to run the police department.
"The parties have differences about the operation of the Police Department that we believe are best resolved by parting company," the statement reads.
Councilman Patrick Plummer, who made the motion to accept Ketner's retirement, thanked the former chief for his years of service. Ketner had been with the Hollidaysburg Police Department for about 35 years, 10 of those as chief.
About 75 people crowded into the borough building's council chambers Tuesday night for the meeting. Many stood in support of Ketner during the public comment session and sought answers about what exactly defines a difference of opinion in this situation.
Richard Reimer asked whether or not borough officials have the knowledge to question Ketner's style of running the police department.
"I want to know who on this council, who - the mayor or anybody else - who has had the police training and the background that Jeff Ketner has," Reimer said. "You know, it's like a politician trying to run a war instead of the generals."
Borough officials declined to comment on specifics when asked about what the two parties disagreed on. Council President Joseph Pompa directed comment to borough labor attorney Dave Andrews.
When asked for comment after the meeting, Councilman Joseph Dodson told a Mirror reporter, "Why are you always picking on me?"
Mayor John Stultz Jr. said he could not comment on the issue because it was a personnel matter, though Andrews said council members legally could comment but could choose not to.
Some members of the public also brought up concerns about the Sunshine Act. The decision to place Ketner on leave apparently occurred after an executive session following council's regular meeting on July 10.
According to the Sunshine Act, official action must occur in public and not in an executive session, though personnel matters can be discussed by officials in such sessions.
Borough resident Virginia Harrington said she thought there was a "certain protocol" that had to be followed by borough officials and questioned council on the legality of the decision to put Ketner on leave.
Andrews dismissed those concerns and said that Ketner was placed on leave by Stultz, who oversees the police force, and not the Borough Council. Stultz, as the supervisor of the police, can place employees on leave, he said.
"We don't believe there's any merit to those claims," Andrews said.
Stultz said he isn't sure what the long-term plan is for replacing Ketner, though Assistant Chief David Gehret is filling the role for now. He said officials haven't decided if they're looking to hire an outside officer to be chief or promote someone internally.
"Once the dust settles, we'll convene and discuss that," Stultz said.
Council's next meeting is scheduled for Aug. 14.
Mirror Staff Writer Paige Minemyer is at 946-7535. Mirror Staff Writer Ryan Brown contributed to this story.