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Who Owes What, How Much, and to Who?
Written by Larry Roeder, Editor
2018-06-14

East Greenville – Pennsburg police dispute navigates through the system

 

            East Greenville's "Project X" and Pennsburg's recent announcement of a $175,000 budget shortfall may both be related to the breakup of their 40-plus year police partnership, but another dark financial cloud or two may still be looming for one or both municipalities.

            In September of 2017, Pennsburg borough filed an Action for Declaratory Judgment in Montgomery County Court against East Greenville over the breakup of the jointly run Upper Perk Police District.

            East Greenville officials notified Pennsburg that they voted to unilaterally terminate the Intergovernmental Cooperation Agreement (ICA) and dissolve the Upper Perk Police Commission on March 6, 2017.  The date for ending the agreement was revised to June 1, 2017 to allow the possibility of a mediated solution.  According to the filing, that mediation never occurred. 

            Pennsburg officials had requested that East Greenville modify the dissolution date to Dec. 31, 2017 to provide sufficient time to mediate and avoid the risk of default on the Police Commission's obligations.

            In November of 2016, Pennsburg officials offered to pay an additional 2.5 percent ($36,000) for 2017, raising their contribution rate from 45 percent to 47.5 percent for the year and decreasing East Greenville's contribution from 45 percent to 42.5 percent. 

            The offer wasn't accepted, and on June 1, 2017 East Greenville unilaterally terminated the agreement and forced the dissolution of the police commission.

            According to court documents, in 2003 both boroughs entered into a formal agreement by adopting reciprocal ordinances for the continuation of the police commission, which operated a unified police department and that each borough would make financial contributions sufficient to fund the annual budget adopted by the Police Commission and approved by both boroughs.

            According to court documents, either municipality could terminate the ICA by providing six months written notice to the other.  However, the ICA does not address the borough's responsibilities related to the Police Commission's existing contract obligations to the police chief and officers in the event that one borough terminates the agreement.

            The failure to address the existing contract obligations to the police chief and officers is one of several sticking points in the ongoing back-and-forth within the process. As part of the dissolution of the police commission, an audit was performed of all assets.

            In January of 2018, as part of a response to Pennsburg's Action for Declaratory Judgment Attorney Anthony R. Sherr, representing East Greenville, claimed Pennsburg was in breach of contract regarding the assets of the previous ICA.

            Sherr claims, in the court documents, that according to the ICA, in the event of termination of the Upper Perk Police District (UPPD), "all common equipment, materials and supplies retained by the Commission shall be appraised by appraisers appointed by the parties … and then sold or retained items shall be distributed in the same proportion as the assessment of expenses."

            The document also claims that on May 24, 2017, Pennsburg sent East Greenville a letter confirming it would retain all UPPD police officers and the police chief, and claimed Pennsburg had the right to continue utilizing all equipment, vehicles, and other Commission assets.  East Greenville disputes that claim, but did not object to allowing the UPPD to continue using Commission assets for public safety purposes while they were being appraised and while East Greenville and Pennsburg made reasonable efforts to resolve outstanding issues.

            Pennsburg maintained the chief and all officers through the end of 2017, however officials announced in January, 2018 that they would be laying-off two officers and offering the police chief an early retirement package, which he accepted.

            The court document reports that an inventory list, approved by both boroughs, was appraised on June 20, 2017 with a net value of the assets at $185,675 – of which East Greenville is entitled to 45 percent or $83,553.75.

            In addition, the court document claims that East Greenville allowed Pennsburg to retain some police radios purchased from Montgomery County and financed through a bank loan so long as Pennsburg reimbursed East Greenville for its monthly loan payments of $333.33.

            East Greenville is seeking $2,333.33 for the seven months Pennsburg has used the radios plus whatever sums of money East Greenville spent to acquire new police radios that in excess of the appraised value of the radios.

            Pennsburg denies the bulk of East Greenville's claims, according to the documents..

            In the latest filing on the case, dated May 22, 2018, Sherr filed a motion to compel the borough of Pennsburg, to answer interrogatories and produce documents, claiming that if Pennsburg fails to respond to the request, East Greenville's will suffer prejudice at trial.

            The Court Administrator has listed July 9, 2018 as the deadline for Pennsburg to show cause as to why East Greenville is not entitled to their request.     


 

 

 

 

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