The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

News

September 19, 2013

Gilberton seeks to fire police chief in gun video

GILBERTON — Town officials said Thursday they intend to fire a police chief suspended after he posted online videos of himself shooting automatic weapons and going on profanity-laced tirades about liberals and the Second Amendment.

Gilberton council members made the decision on Thursday concerning Chief Mark Kessler, the only full-time member of the town's police force, who's active in gun rights circles and is organizing an armed, non-government group that critics call a private militia.

Kessler, despite insisting he was simply exercising his constitutional rights in the videos, said the town council's decision was "no surprise."

"We knew it was coming," he said.

A closed-door disciplinary hearing earlier in the day had dwelled on allegations including that Kessler improperly used a state-administered program to buy discounted tires for his personal vehicle, failed to submit required crime data and made derogatory comments about borough officials, said his attorney, Joseph Nahas.

Nahas said the charges were trumped up to conceal the town's intent to fire Kessler over the videos. He said after the vote he'll request a public hearing at which both sides can call witnesses, as is Kessler's right under due process rules. The council would then have to vote a second time to fire Kessler.

Kessler told reporters outside his disciplinary hearing that he had been an excellent police chief and had nothing to apologize for. He said later he'd broken no laws: "None. I'd be in handcuffs."

"My message was to wake up the people who are independents," he said, "to say, 'We've had enough and something needs to change, because we're in bad shape all around. Not only here in this little town but across the nation. It's a mess.'"

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