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Citizens Vent at Macungie Council Over Absent Mayor

Despite pleas, Mayor Rick Hoffman failed to attend Monday's Macungie Council meeting to defend police staffing plans.

Macungie Mayor Rick Hoffman was notably absent from Monday night’s long, contentious borough council meeting, frustrating residents who wanted to weigh in on police coverage and council members who were at times subject to residents’ wrath.

At issue is whether the borough police force is to provide round-the-clock coverage for Macungie. The mayor has said that the occasional open shift will not jeopardize the safety of the borough. Council and several citizens have said they the borough is used to.

During Monday night's meeting, which lasted more than four hours, several citizens reiterated their arguments. “Council budgeted for 24/7 coverage,” said Dorothy Kociuba. She pointed out that officers from the neighboring boroughs of Alburtis and Emmaus can only aid or cover for Macungie if at least one Macungie police officer is already on duty. “If we don’t have a Macungie officer on duty, we have state police coverage,” she said.

“Do we know why the mayor is not here?” asked business owner Tim Romig.

“The mayor is his own entity,” said Councilman Chris Becker, adding that council last month unanimously passed a resolution supporting 24/7 coverage by borough police.

Council President Jean Nagle said residents’ should take their complaints to the mayor. “Most of what is said about the mayor, should be said to the mayor,” she said.

But resident John L. Long  said he with the mayor to come to the meeting. “It’s not our responsibility necessarily to hunt down the mayor,” Long said. “I feel we’ve been sandbagged by council for two months.”

Complicating matters, the new Borough Code approved by the state Legislature leaves the borough council with less power over police than it currently has.  The existing Borough Code gave power over the police force to the office of the mayor but allowed council to set the hours of the police department, according to council members. The new Borough Code, which takes effect July 16, borough councils the power to set police hours.  

Councilwoman Debra Cope said she talked to officials at the Pennsylvania State Association of Boroughs who said the change was an error and it was their intention to recommend that the Legislature restore that power to borough councils.

Councilman David Boyko made a motion and Cope seconded it to urge the Association and legislators to reinstate that authority to councils. The motion was approved in a 6-1 vote. Jean Nagle voted no.

In the past three years, council engaged in a protracted and expensive legal battle with Hoffman about his authority over the police department. A Lehigh County judge ruled that the mayor was in charge but approved of some of council's actions. 

Councilman Joseph Sikorski made it clear he was in no hurry to engage in litigation over the police coverage question.

“Of the seven issues (in the court case) the mayor won four and we won three,” said Sikorski. “And the winners were the attorneys.”  

Ron Beitler July 04, 2012 at 01:16 AM
Me my family, many good friends and approximately 30,000 other people in Lower Macungie do just fine with primary PSP. The borough and it's residents would be well served with this very same coverage during the extremely small % of times MPD isnt available.
Responsible Citizen July 04, 2012 at 01:25 AM
So happy that system works so well for all of you!! Now....please allow our residents to speak for what we feel we require. We do not comment ad nauseum regarding your situation in LMT. Thank you!
for real July 04, 2012 at 01:31 AM
I get the frustration in Macungie. One truth you may want to consider is that if you look at the numbers you are getting 24/7 police coverage 99% of the time. Please stop acting like the world will come to an end if an hour or so goes by when you don't. We have good resources nearby to assist. Also, the nastiness at borough meetings needs to stop. The council cannot force the mayor to attend. Go to the mayor's house if you want but don't ask council to do more than it can. A vote of no confidence? What is this Great Britain? A lot of good people live in this borough and we are tired of the nastiness with law suits and rude behavior at meetings. We will have a new mayor soon enough. Maybe consider coming together on some issues to improve Macungie. Growling snarling and yelling will accomplish all of nothing.
Guy Ramsey July 04, 2012 at 02:16 AM
Scheduling coverage and having coverage are two different things. If you have enough officers to cover 200 man hours per week, with168 hours to cover, and an officer is injured, sick, attending certification training, attending court, or on vacation, there are frequent occasions that require an officer to shift from working an AM shift, to a PM shift, or a night shift, or a double shift. In order to provide a good quality of life for these loyal and trusted people, tack shifts are appropriate. Then, when an officer becomes unavailable for a shift a simple two hour adjustment can provide coverage, not an 8 hour adjustment. The big issue before the department and the council is wages, retirement and healthcare, not man hours to cover. This problem can be partly resolved with part time officers, and a Mayor that will permit the part timers to have a dependable schedule. The council budgeted for it. The Mayor should not have the authority to subvert or supress the level of coverage that is budgeted, and supported by the community.
Guy Ramsey July 04, 2012 at 02:33 AM
Good idea. I wish people could rally to support good ideas, rather than merely rail against bad ones. But, this does not seem to be the way of politics. Sad really, a weakness in our system. Few and far between were comments and support for good ideas. Frequent were barbs and insults when they weren't so good. But, never real support when it came to ways forword for enforceable sidewalk ordinance, or down town master plans, or streetsape improvements, or enforcable lighting, or nusiance noise ordiance.

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