A two-mill tax hike may be looming but the hot topic before Nazareth Borough Council Thursday night was not taxes but what to do with the borough’s police chief, who has come under withering criticism for what some see as a heavy-handed approach to petty crime.
He referred to the case brought against three youths who were handcuffed and “perp walked” on charges they stuck hundreds of “Fire Trachta” stickers all over the borough, on parking meters, signs, newspaper boxes and on just about anything else where they would stick.
O’Hare, who is a former federal prosecutor, said the youths were paraded before the media en route to court for “basically littering.” He said the case was “laughed out of court because it was so poorly prepared.”
The district justice who threw the case out of court told Trachta after the preliminary hearing that he needs “to suck it up, cupcake.”
O’Hare, who handed council a tray of cupcakes before speaking, reminded council he told them in July there was a problem with the chief.
“What are you doing?” O’Hare asked.
Council member Frank Maurek said the borough “got egg all over its face” in the “Fire Trachta” case. Maurek said the way it was handled left him “very disgusted and embarrassed.”
Maurek said he was in court for the hearing and saw the look on the judge’s face.
“If looks could kill, you’d have two borough police officers dead,” he said, adding the borough has a “dysfunctional police department.”
Council member Carl Fischl said he is ready to file paperwork with the state asking for a free, independent management study of the department if council agrees.
No decision was made because the meeting was a work session, not an official meeting.
Council member Lance E. Colondo said council is not sitting idly by.
“No one is taking this lightly,” Colondo said. He said council was “not stonewalling, not sandbagging” the public on its plans for the department.
“Things have to be done carefully,” Colondo said. “It takes time.”
“I guarantee you it will be addressed,” Maurek said.