City’s police leadership, worsening finances in limbo

Council failed to get enough votes to hire permanent chief – or withdraw reserve funds

By Kathleen Brady Shea, Managing Editor, The Times

With his brother, Gary Hudson (from right), holding the bible, Kirby Hudson is sworn in as Coatesville manager by Magisterial District Judge Grover E. Koon.

After nearly three hours, Coatesville City Council addressed the agenda items most responsible for the crowd at last night’s meeting: votes on transferring more money from the trust fund and selecting a new police chief.

“It’s a mess,” declared Councilwoman C. Arvilla Hunt. She was describing the budget; however, citing the city’s worsening financial woes, she was the lone dissenter in the 3-1 vote to hire City Manager Kirby Hudson’s selection for police chief, Maj. John “Jack” W. Laufer III, a veteran of the state police.

Council President David Collins – voted into the leadership post earlier in the meeting – and Councilmen Jarrell Brazzle and Joseph Hamrick voted for Laufer.

Before the vote, Hamrick praised Laufer’s qualifications, calling him “very capable of running any police department.”

Despite the support, the talley failed to garner a majority of the seven-member group. Councilwoman Ingrid Jones left midway through the meeting, and Councilmen Ed Simpson and Jeff LoPrinzi did not attend. Simpson stepped down as president at the last meeting, citing health issues.

Newly elected Council President David Collins (from left) moves to the center seat after the vote as Councilwoman C. Arvilla Hunt and Councilman Joseph Hamrick offer congratulations.

Hunt said Interim Police Chief James Bell is doing “a great job,” and since he earns less, there is no urgency to replace him. “How do we pay him?” she asked about Laufer. The salary range for the position is approximately $72,000 to $90,000.

After Laufer was not approved,  more than half a dozen police officers left the meeting, shaking their heads in disbelief. The vote followed spirited discussion about the city’s red ink.

At the last meeting, Finance Director John Marcarelli said the city needed nearly $2 million from the city’s trust fund to keep operating. Last night, he said a $275,000 settlement in a police lawsuit necessitated increasing the request to $2.25 million.

“We need to get our revenues in line with our expenses,” said Collins, who voted against the withdrawal. “The way we are going, in another three years there won’t be another trust fund.”

Hunt, who also voted no, said the city has been “mismanaged for so long.” She said the decision to give police an early-retirement option – a buyout that resulted in the departure of six officers in the spring – was a mistake.

“We’re going to take control of this city,” she said. “We’re going to come out of this.”

Maj. John “Jack” Laufer, a state police veteran and the city manager’s choice for police chief, garnered a 3-1 vote, which failed to secure him the position.

The reserve fund, set up with about $39 million from the 2000 sale of the city-owned water and sewer company, has been tapped repeatedly since then. The withdrawals have frequently been accompanied by city officials’ vows to replace the money at a later time.

After the vote to withdraw the reserve funds failed – Brazzle and Hamrick reluctantly voted yes – Brazzle questioned Marcarelli about the repercussions of not releasing the money.

“Are we in trouble?” Brazzle asked.

Marcarelli estimated the city could cover the next three payrolls at most. “That’s why this is an emergency ordinance,” he said.

Brazzle said he wanted to see belt-tightening immediately. “Before I get off this council, I want some money put back in this trust fund,” he said.

After the meeting, Laufer, who currently directs  the state police Bureau of Training and Education, declined comment. Hudson apologized to him profusely for the unexpected turn of events, and Collins expressed confidence that Laufer would be hired at the next meeting.

“I think it’s resolvable within the next couple of weeks … most definitely,” he said.




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One Comment

  1. This may be the time to make sure something like this doesn’t happen again. Top quality police leadership is essential for all communities. For insight and direction on this and other important police improvement issues, take a look at “Arrested Development: A Veteran Police Chief Sounds Off About Protest, Racism, Corruption and the Seven Steps Necessary to Improve Our Nation’s Police” ( in US and EU). And the blog at where other current police improvement issues are discussed. Good luck and may we all experience not just good but great policing! Great policing is accomplished by police who are well-trained and led, restrained in their use of force, honest, and courteous to every person.

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