The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Northumberland County

February 25, 2014

Watsontown council reinstates police chief

WATSONTOWN — Borough Council unanimously reinstated Police Chief Dennis Derr on Monday night at a meeting attended by more than 150 residents at First Lutheran Church.

Council members also made a public statement that they did not agree with Mayor Dave Hontz’s decision to suspend, without pay, Chief Derr, for 10 working days.

The mayor, who supervises the police department, suspended Derr without explanation, and he could have shortened the term of the suspension Monday night, but did not.

Derr will thus remain suspended until next Monday, when he will return to work, with pay.

Council by law did not have the ability to shorten the suspension period once the mayor suspended Derr for a maximum of 10 working days, Councilman Harry Hefty said.

“We could not change that decision,” Hefty said.

The suspension is now entering its second week.

Hontz had the power to suspend the police chief, Hefty said, but had to present his reasoning at the next scheduled Borough Council meeting, which was Monday.

Hontz presented his case in an executive session, Hefty said. He declined to go into any more details.

But after the executive session, “council did take a vote to say that we did not agree with the mayor’s decision to suspend,” Hefty said.

Monday night’s meeting brought out a huge turnout of residents who were mostly there in support Derr, Hefty said.

The chief did not attend the meeting, Hefty said.

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