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East Greenville Terminates Skelton
Written by Bradley Schlegel, Staff Writer

            Last week, East Greenville Borough Council acted quickly to remove its embattled police chief. During a special meeting, without discussion, the members voted twice to terminate Andrew Skelton.

            Following the unanimous votes on May 16, one resident expressed his approval. "Yay," said Michael Schwenk, who applauded, stood up and headed towards the door.

            At least three audience members accused President Angie Fegely of not allowing public comment during the meeting, which lasted just five minutes. Tension filled the room as Schwenk traded insults with at least one of four women sitting on the other side of the room and Fegely banged her gavel attempting to calm the situation.

            Three days after receiving a ruling from Melissa Fiala, a hearing officer hired by the borough, the members accepted her recommendation which found no evidence to overturn their decision to remove Skelton, who took himself off duty at 4 p.m. on Sept. 6. They then voted to terminate him following a two-year tenure as chief of the department. Member Alison Palmer did not attend the meeting.

            Skelton's dismissal could lead to the hiring of another full-time officer. Earlier this month, Mayor Keith Gerhart said the municipality had plans to hire a full-time officer to replace the former chief. According to Fegely, council has yet to further consider that plan. She estimated the final cost of the termination hearing at between $70,000 and $75,000. The council president added after the meeting that the borough would have to pay all the costs.

            "Our insurance isn't going to cover any of this," Fegely said after the meeting.

            Immediately after the meeting was gaveled to order, Solicitor Michael Peters informed the audience that Skelton's termination hearing, which started Jan. 10 and concluded Feb. 11, allowed lawyers for the former chief and the borough to offer testimony, evidence and witnesses. Peters informed the members that if they moved to adopt Fiala's findings as true, they could then consider a motion to terminate.

            According to Peters, the items raised for Skelton's termination include inefficiency, neglect of official duty, intemperance, disobedience of orders and conduct unbecoming.

            Member John Dingler made a motion to adopt her findings. He read Fiala's statement aloud, which states, in part, that "[b]ased on the evidence of record, there is a sufficient basis for the termination of Chief Andrew Skelton by the Borough of East Greenville … .and this Hearing Officer finds no reason to modify the penalty imposed or the actions of the borough … is hereby ordered that the [borough's] determination to … terminate the employment of Chief Andrew Skelton is that be the decision to sustained." Joe Rock seconded the motion, which was approved in a voice vote without discussion.

            Lon Brinckman II then made the motion to terminate Skelton. Doug Criddle offered a second on the formal suggestion, which passed unanimously.

            Skelton, a retired state trooper who grew up in Hereford and graduated from Upper Perkiomen High School, did not attend the meeting.

            Following the votes, Gerhart told the audience that municipal officials declined to comment previously on the nature of Fiala's findings out of respect for the process. The mayor urged residents to obtain a copy of the hearing officer's decision and order. After the meeting, Gerhart explained the hearing transcript would be available for the public in approximately one week. 





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