Lehigh Valley

Mayor claims police chief hired illegally, seeks to have him removed

Mayor seeks to have police chief removed from job

MACUNGIE, Pa. - It's round two, or maybe three or four, in the battle between a borough's mayor and top cop.

This time around, Mayor Rick Hoffman, D-Macungie, Lehigh County, is asking whether police Chief Edward Harry belongs on the force in the first place.

The mayor said the way the chief was hired violates the state borough code, and he wants the chief removed.

"I can't stop him from doing what he is going to do," said Harry.

For five and a half years, Harry has been the top cop in the Macungie Police Department, but Hoffman said the chief's employment is illegal because he was hired from outside the department.

"Pennsylvania borough code states that you can pick an officer from the ranks, and he must be civil service qualified, neither of which Chief Harry is," said Hoffman.

Hoffman's attorney sent a letter to the Lehigh County District Attorney and the state attorney general, asking them to take action in the matter.

This is just the latest in a series of legal wranglings between the mayor and the chief, which started last year when the mayor wanted total access to police records.

District Attorney Jim Martin got involved in the issue to ensure that access didn't divulge sensitive intelligence information.

A judge ruled in the mayor's favor. Martin and the mayor are both appealing.

During the battle, the mayor suspended the chief, who was then reinstated by borough council.

The chief said he feels the mayor is gunning for him.

"I must be doing my job if these are the kind of things that the mayor has to get into in order to remove me from office," said Harry.

"It sounds like a vendetta, but it's not. We have our differences. We will probably always have our differences, whether they find that I'm right or wrong here," said Hoffman.

Martin said he is not going to review the matter.

"I am declining to act on the request," said Martin. "I am instead forwarding it to the attorney general of Pennsylvania for whatever action she deems appropriate. As an intervenor in the lawsuit involving the mayor, the chief and borough council, I have concluded that I have an apparent conflict of interest."

If the attorney general does nothing, the mayor can file a civil action in order to remove the chief.

The mayor said he's racked up around $40,000 in legal bills and is asking the borough to reimburse him.

Meantime, the chief said he isn't worried and will keep doing his job.

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