By Rick Dandes
The Daily Item
NORTHUMBERLAND — Emotions ran high at Tuesday’s Borough Council meeting as members disagreed over whether Clifford “Butch” Kriner should be named “acting” or “permanent” police chief to replace Tim Fink, who earlier in the evening had tendered his resignation.
At one point, the normally calm Mayor Len Zboray, who strongly pushed for Kriner to get the job, stormed out of the meeting room, saying, “I have one thing to say. I’ve lived here 64 years. What this council is doing to my borough is upsetting.”
Zboray said in no uncertain terms that Kriner was “the best man for the job. He has all the qualifications that will make him a great police chief.”
He also cited recommendations by Fink and Point Township Police Chief Joshua Vankirk. Fink resigned as borough chief to join the Point Township department.
After listening to Zboray, the council abruptly went into executive session for close to an hour. When the members returned, Councilman Ty Sees made a motion to hire Kriner as “acting” police chief, angering many in the audience, who were there in support of Kriner.
Sees and others on the council said they were urging caution.
Councilman Adam Klock said the idea of naming Kriner acting chief was based on their desire to “slow up the process and make sure that we put in writing a list of expectations for the new chief. It’s not that we don’t think he’s the right person. But in hiring him as an interim chief, we wanted to clearly define what his role will look like.”
Zboray and Councilmen Greg Carl and Frank Wetzel — who also briefly walked out of the meeting room in protest — disagreed strongly with Klock.
“Kriner should be chief,” Carl said. “Period.”
After Zboray and Wetzel left the room, Kriner’s wife, Barbara, stood up and made an impassioned speech on behalf of her husband.
Practically in tears, she said: “I don’t get it. My husband has shown 23 years of leadership. He is the most honest, trustworthy person that anyone will ever meet. He gives everything he has for this community, which he loves, working his way up from a patrolman to sergeant. What more do you people need in a chief to run your borough?”
There is no room for playing politics when it comes to picking a police chief, she continued. “He is the best person for the job, and everyone here in this room knows it.”
About 20 people, including several police officers, applauded her speech.
Meanwhile, Zboray and Wetzel returned to the room.
Zboray apologized for losing his temper, “something I don’t often do.”
A motion was made to remove the word “acting” from the title and name Kriner the chief. This motion passed 6-1.
Kriner, 45, stood quietly in the back of the room as fellow officers and friends patted his back and hugged him.