Colebrookdale reveals reason for firing its police chief

Evidence in drug case destroyed, officials say

COLEBROOKDALE TWP., Pa. - More than six months after firing its police chief, Colebrookdale Township on Friday revealed the reason for the termination.

Chief David Viola was fired in May after officials learned that drug evidence collected by the police department was discarded before a decision was made whether to file criminal charges, according to the township's solicitor, Jeffrey Karver.

Two other members of the police department -- Detective David Guida and Officer Timothy Harootunian -- were briefly suspended without pay for their roles in the case.

The three men raided a home in Bechtelsville on May 20, 2016, and seized 57 marijuana plants, along with related growing materials, Karver told 69 News on Friday.

The items were secured in the department's evidence room until August 23, 2016, when Viola destroyed the plants, later telling officials that the smell of the decaying plants had become overwhelming, according to Karver.

The Berks County District Attorney's Office learned of the evidence being destroyed when it inquired about the status of the case in February 2017, Karver said.

The township's commissioners unanimously voted to suspend Viola without pay and with the intent to terminate during a five-minute public meeting on May 2. They did not disclose a reason for their decision at that time, citing the case being a personnel matter.

Viola, who had been on the force since June 2000, has appealed his termination. A hearing on the matter will be held at the township building on December 7 at 7 p.m., Karver said.

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