The embattled police chief, who also serves on the North Schuylkill school board, said outside the disciplinary hearing that he had nothing to apologize for, although he admitted that the council’s decision to terminate him wasn’t surprising.
His attorney said council members based their decision to fire Kessler on trumped-up and unrelated allegations, which he said were used to conceal their intention to fire him over the videos.
Kessler, who has been suspended without pay since July 31 after the videos were publicized, has a right to a public hearing on his termination, and he and his attorney said they intended to exercise that.
Gilberton officials declined to comment on the decision to fire Kessler, saying it was a personnel matter, but his attorney dismissed, point-by-point, a list of issues the town had cited as reasons to suspend the police chief.
Kessler was technically suspended over misuse of public property, after the borough claimed he refused to turn over attachments he’d donated to make his weapons fully automatic.
He was also accused of making derogatory statements about borough officials, although his attorney insisted those were in reference to online postings allegedly made by Kessler, and not a video in which the police chief fired his gun at two clown targets he called by two council members’ first names.
Borough officials also said Kessler improperly used a state-administered purchasing program to buy discounted tires for his personal vehicle and failed to submit required crime data.
Several members of Kessler’s “Constitution Security Force,” a pro-gun assemblage that’s been described by some as a private militia, openly carried assault weapons at the borough building, which also serves as the town’s sewage treatment plant.
“Mark has gotten railroaded,” said group member Bob Gardner, of Philadelphia, who carried a semi-automatic AK-47. “He was exercising his First Amendment rights by backing it up with his Second Amendment rights.”
A hearing on Kessler’s termination could happen by the end of the month, and it will be overseen by a newly appointed “independent” attorney.
Kessler and his attorney said they would appeal the termination though the courts.
The police chief is the town’s only full-time police officer, and he makes $33,000 per year as part of a contract that runs through December 2015.
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