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Press And Journal article was misleading on police meeting

Posted 2/12/17

In recent months, I have not been very active on social media, but I feel that I must address an issue that has greatly upset me in the last few days. First, I will give some background information …

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Press And Journal article was misleading on police meeting

Posted

In recent months, I have not been very active on social media, but I feel that I must address an issue that has greatly upset me in the last few days. First, I will give some background information about the topic at hand.
As many in the borough know, borough council and the mayor are currently holding discussions with neighboring municipalities to explore whether or not there is interest in a shared police services arrangement that could potentially save taxpayers money and provide a satisfactory level of public safety for our residents. These discussions originated with a study that was done by Dauphin County to explore what a shared police services model might look like.
As I have stated publicly on many occasions, it is my firm belief that the investigation of this opportunity is my fiduciary responsibility as your elected representative. To use an analogy, if someone told you that it was possible to get a different television provider and get the exact same channels (possibly even add more) and save money, would you dismiss it or explore further? It may be that the arrangement doesn’t work and each respective municipality decides to keep the same police services they currently have, but we won’t know that until we get the opportunity to dig into the details of any potential deal.
Last week, an article was written by the Press and Journal on the subject of police regionalization. In this article it stated the following about the most recent meeting. “The most recent meeting was held on Thursday, Jan. 12, when according to witnesses about 16 people met behind locked doors in the upstairs room in the Municipal Building where borough council typically meets in closed-door executive sessions.”
While I normally feel that the Press And Journal engages in fair reporting, I am not at all pleased with the misrepresentation made in this article. The average person who isn’t that involved in borough affairs but gets the weekly paper reads that sentence and gathers that something mischievous is going on. I have now had more than one person ask me why the Council is holding “secret meetings” relating to police regionalization.
I pride myself on transparency. It’s what I ran on when I was elected to office and I feel we as a council have been extremely transparent with information relating to current borough affairs.
In order to get the story straight, here are the facts about the infamous meeting held Jan. 12. First and foremost, I have been announcing at public council meetings that these discussions are taking place. Second, relating to the Jan. 12 meeting, I specifically mentioned to all council members that if they were interested in attending, they should contact me. In fact, I had one council member contact me and ask if they could come. If I never mentioned the meeting, how would that council member have known to ask? Third, whoever the “witnesses” are in this article obviously aren’t math majors as there were nine people in the meeting and not 16. Lastly, I couldn’t tell you if the door was locked or not, but if it was it most likely occurred because there was another unrelated meeting happening in council chambers at the same time.
One of my main gripes with this article is the question of why I wasn’t contacted and asked directly about what occurred at the meeting. I would have been happy to share. As I’ve stated publicly, it was high-level discussion about shared police services. The meeting was more of a get-to-know-you meeting than anything. There were no numbers discussed and there is no deal on the table. I assure you that when we get to that point, we will be transparent and share with everyone.
As a matter of fact, if we wanted to be secretive, why on Earth would we schedule a public meeting in February to answer questions and discuss with the public? To be completely honest, we are extremely early in the process for a public meeting because we have no specific information to share, but nonetheless council wants to be as open as possible with this process.
I’m not usually a complainer and if you know me, you know that I hate doing things like this. I’m much happier staying focused on borough business and making sure that we are spending your tax dollars in a responsible and productive way. Distractions like this are not good for anyone as they take away from some of the really good things that are happening in town.
I felt compelled to write this and get the story straight so that the public is not misinformed and doesn’t get an image in their head that something mischievous is happening. Again, if you know me you know that I do not hold grudges, so I will move on from this event and focus on the bright future that I see for Middletown.

Benjamin H. Kapenstein
President
Middletown Borough Council

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