By Evamarie Socha
The Daily Item
— HARTLETON — Donald “Larry” Zerbe, Hartleton police chief for more than 30 years, was charged Thursday in Union County with theft and conspiracy for allegedly funneling traffic citation fines to a community playground fund.
Zerbe voluntarily met state troopers at a predetermined location to go to District Judge Jeffrey Mensch’s office for arraignment around 2 p.m., Mensch said.
Zerbe faces three third-degree felony counts, two of theft and one of conspiracy. Two second-degree misdemeanor counts are obstruction and official oppression.
Trooper Shawn Kofluk, of the state police criminal investigation division in Harrisburg, is lead investigator in the case. He could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Zerbe was released on his own recognizance. His preliminary hearing before Mensch is May 28.
The Daily Item could not confirm whether Zerbe is still serving as police chief despite the charges.
Hartleton Borough Council President Gary Loss and Solicitor Mark Lemon did not return phone calls for comment Thursday. Mayor Jim Dorman could not be reached by telephone for comment Thursday.
Borough Council Vice President Brenda Zerbe said she had no comment.
“What did I tell you two weeks ago?” she asked, referring to an earlier newspaper request for comment. “I have no comment. Please don’t bother me again.”
State police at Milton had no comment, said Trooper Matt Burrows, who said his station is not involved with the investigation.
Several weeks ago, Mensch signed a search warrant for the police department office in Zerbe’s home on Laurel Road in Laurelton.
PennLive.com reported in April that the search warrant affidavit cites two instances in October where motorists stopped for speeding on Route 45 claimed an officer gave them Zerbe’s business card and advised them how to avoid a citation.
Zerbe allegedly told motorists they could pay their traffic tickets or make a $150 donation, check payable to the “Hartleton Playground Fund.”