The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

February 28, 2013

Sunbury police chief under fire over shotguns

By Francis Scarcella
The Daily Item

SUNBURY — SUNBURY -  Thanks to the Sunbury Police Department, the Shamokin Dam Police Department has two shotguns.

Or has it?

Two Benelli 12-gauge shotguns, one with a 14-inch barrel and one with an 18-inch barrel, were sold to the Shamokin Dam police for $300 in August.

Shamokin Dam Borough Council approved the purchase in August, according to minutes from the meeting. However, Sunbury’s City Council never voted on the transaction.

Sunbury Mayor David Persing said the city wouldn’t have sold the shotguns because the department still has 13 Glock .45-caliber handguns that need to be sold.

“We would have done this in a package deal,” Persing said. “The problem is they were sold before we had the chance to act.”

Persing said he was informed after the fact that Police Chief Steve Mazzeo had sold the shotguns.

“He made a mistake because he purchased new guns before he sold the old ones,” Persing said. “They are old guns, but we should have sold everything at once, and council should have known about it.”

Persing said the shotguns were from the SWAT team Sunbury used to have.

Mazzeo said the shotguns were discussed in October and November, and Persing knew police were looking to sell the old shotguns.

“No one told me they needed to vote on it,” Mazzeo said. “As far as I knew I complied with all laws, and the guns are already transferred.”

Mazzeo said one of the shotguns is a Class Three weapon and can’t be sold unless it goes to another police department as designated by the National Firearms Act of 1934.

“It’s a short-barrelled shotgun, and we weren’t using it,” he said. “This was discussed several times during budget sessions, and it was $300 that is supposed to be spent to purchase Glock .45 handguns that we are now carrying. If there is a law about voting on selling them I am not aware of it, and we have disposed of weapons before.”

Shamokin Dam issued the city a check for $300 on Aug. 31, and city Treasurer Beth Kremer said she received the money and put it in a line item for guns on the 2013 budget.

“I mentioned the sale of these guns and other funding venues during the open council budget meetings, and if anyone had an objection they didn’t raise it then,” Mazzeo said. “As far as I knew I was in compliance, and if there was an error, it was simply because I didn’t know. I would have made sure they would complied with it.”

Mazzeo said even though the department is short on shotguns, the reason the two guns in question were sold was because they didn’t fit in the police cars.

“I shopped them around and that was a good price,” Mazzeo said. “Also the fact we were able to sell them to a neighboring department that routinely backs us up was a plus.”

Mazzeo acknowledged the city is short on shotguns because at least two are broken and finding parts is a problem and at least two cars are without shotguns.

Shotguns are fired every year during qualifications and training, and Mazzeo said an officer has not used a shotgun in an incident in more than 25 years in the city.

“They should be returned and the sale should be null and void,” Councilman Joe Bartello said. “We never voted on this. I don’t want to take anything away from the Shamokin Dam police, but what’s right is right.”

Councilmen Jim Eister and Kevin Troup said they had no idea the guns were being sold.

“I have no knowledge of the guns being sold, and if they were we didn’t vote on it,” Eister said. “I found out about the guns after they were sold. It came up in a conversation, and I was confused on what they were talking about.”

Troup echoed Eister.

“I didn’t know until the other night they were sold,” Troup said. “I would think these guns needed to be voted on and I know we had in the budget for handguns to be sold, but not shotguns. It should have been voted on and permission should have been given by council.”