Macungie Quality of Life Survey Criticizes Mayor

Several residents are not too happy with the Police Department or Borough Council, either.

A recently released quality of life survey taken in Macungie reflects the fact that most people who live in the borough are happy there. But when readers get to the comments section at the end of the document, there is a seemingly different story. Under the cloak of anonymity respondents expressed their dissatisfaction with Mayor Rick Hoffman, Police Chief Ed Harry, the in general and with Borough Council.

As Patch , about 300 resident  -- approximately 10 percent of the population of the borough -- received surveys. They were randomly chosen from the per capita tax list. About a third of those answered and returned them. So the sampling was small but still viable according to Annmarie Cordner of Kutztown University who conducted and compiled the results of the survey.

When Cordner presented the results May 2 to Borough Council, she said in general, the comments communicated a dislike of the legal situation regarding the mayor and that the Police Department could be unfriendly. Actual comments were a bit more specific.

Comments at the end of the survey were broken down as responses to three questions:

1. "If you rated any of the officials/departments as 'poor,' please explain why."

2. "If you could change one thing about the Borough of Macungie, what would it be?"

3. "Other Comments"

Of the 45 responses to the first question, comments ran almost three-to-one against the mayor. Twenty-seven directly expressed dissatisfaction with him. Typical comments include: 

* "Mayor Hoffman seems intent on attacking the police department and hindering their excellent work. As far as I can tell, he has done nothing but cost the Borough thousands of dollars in completely unnecessary legal fees. We DO NOT need a mayor like him and he needs to go as soon as possible!"

* "Mayor wants everything his way, not willing to listen to other ideas. Has cost the Borough more money than his position is worth."

* "The current mayor has used his elected office to follow a personal agenda which has proved to be destructive to the operation of  the police department and costly to taxpayers."

Of those same 45 responses, four were critical of the Macungie Police Department including:

* "Our police make us feel uncomfortable in are (sic) own town. Tell Mr. Harry to go  make things uncomfortable in his town. I had 2 different cops give me a stare down. Maybe to show there (sic) toughness. If we could vote for cops, I wonder how many of our officers would still be serving."

Hoffman says the critical comments  are not representative of how borough residents really feel about him because not enough people were surveyed, and of the ones who were, not enough responded to make the comments valid for the whole borough. 

"Also, it was a bad time to release it," Hoffman said, referring to its proximity to his Monday court appearance, details of which are in this published report.

"Personally, I have not had time to do my job," he said, which he states consists solely of being in charge of the Police Department. He wants a key, to be able to schedule officers' shifts and to be informed of all undercover operations.

"Council has the power to discipline borough employees and hire and fire them. I don't. I need to have my control, too."

Macungie Police Chief Edward Harry said that over the mayor's tenure in office he has tried to work with him.

"From Day One nobody has attempted to shut the mayor out...He has issued orders that we have followed including buying gas for the police cars only at Turkey Hill and unless we're on an emergency call, we may not use cell phones while driving," Harry said.

But the chief has asked the mayor to sit down and discuss the issues several times, to no avail.

"I have no problem following lawful orders," Harry said, but there is a problem giving the mayor -- or anyone not directly involved, including other officers -- information about undercover operations.

"If something goes wrong," he said, all the people who had knowledge of the operation are in danger. "And that's the last thing I want."

Lehigh County Judge Michele Varricchio said Monday that she would decide quickly on the case.

Hoffman claims the survey complainers are the ones who show up at council meetings, and that there are as many -- or more -- people who support him but who fear retribution if they speak out. He also said that after Varricchio rules on the case he will have access to police records that will back up several residents' claims of mistreatment or unfairness by the Macungie police, which is the platform on which he ran for mayor.

"When this case is over, things will open up," Hoffman said, "People are coming around."


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