Not everyone in West Reading is against the idea of former Police Chief Edward C. Fabriziani returning to the borough's police force.
In fact, some say, a compromise like that may be just what the borough needs to move forward.
"They could throw a lot of money at this with no surefire way of knowing the outcome," borough resident Oswald Herbert said Monday of negotiations between the borough and Fabriziani, who is appealing his November firing. "To throw thousands and thousands of dollars of legal expenses at it doesn't make sense and it's not fair to the taxpayer. So, I think a compromise is the way to go."
However, he added, to give the former chief "everything he wants is another story."
Herbert was reacting to a Jan. 15 letter from Fabriziani's attorney, Kevin A. Moore, to borough Solicitor Daniel C. Becker, marked "For negotiation purposes only" and obtained by the Reading Eagle.
In it, Moore writes that Fabriziani would "voluntarily resign as chief and accept a patrolman position" on several conditions, including no loss of seniority and clearing his personnel file of all charges.
Fabriziani would waive his claim to back pay if the borough compensated him for "economic damages and attorneys fees" using the difference between his salary as a patrolman and what he would have earned as a chief over two years.
Months of turmoil in the troubled police department came to a head with the Nov. 14 firing of the longtime chief, along with Officer Ronald E. Ladd and Sgt. Richard Vetter.
Previously, Fabriziani and Ladd had been on paid administrative leave as the result of an Aug. 31 scuffle in the chief's office after Ladd argued with him and Officer Thomas A. Hawn over their decision not to arrest a man for violating a protection-from-abuse order.
Since the firings, Sgt. Keith Phillips has remained in charge of the borough force.
Ladd is appealing his dismissal with a public hearing before the borough's Civil Service Commission set for Feb. 12 at 6 p.m. in the West Reading Fire Department.
Fabriziani had been slated to appear before the commission Monday night for his own hearing, which by his choice, would've been closed to the public. However, that was postponed to allow for further negotiations.
Borough Councilwoman Nathalie R. Kulesa confirmed that a straw vote was taken on a possible settlement during an executive session at a recent borough council meeting, and that she and another council member voiced the only opposition.
"Fired is fired, as far as I'm concerned," Kulesa said. "So I voted no to negotiations."
She declined to discuss the matter further and it's not known who the other "no" vote was.
Mayor Shane J. Keller and other members of council either declined to comment or could not be reached.
West Reading residents and business owners, though, had mixed feelings about the possible resolution between Fabriziani and the borough.
"I'm pleased and proud to be a part of West Reading borough and I do have faith in our police department," said Nancy Campbell, owner of The Compleat Baldwin Brass Center on Penn Avenue. "I do understand that this is a negotiations process and people need to work out what's best, hopefully for the borough and not for any one individual."
Resident James T. Rogers called the saga an embarrassment.
"This all happened on Eddie's (Fabriziani's) watch," he said, referring to the ongoing turbulence, which included an officer stun gun scandal in 2011. "I'd assume that whatever happened on my watch I'd be held responsible. And apparently he was, but they (council) are having second thoughts.
"Something is drastically wrong here."
Rogers praised Ladd for bringing to light a situation that otherwise "would've just continued."
Speaking as president of the Berks County Fraternal Order of Police, West Reading Criminal Investigator Joseph M. Brown said that if council brings Fabriziani back to the force, they would have to make an offer to Ladd as well.
"Fabriziani's (firing) was for a combination of many, many things," Brown said. "Ron's was specific to the incident that happened between him and the chief."
Furthermore, he questioned the neutrality of the Civil Service Commission that would hear Ladd's case.
"Two of Fabriziani's friends are on it and Fabriziani controlled it when he was chief," Brown said. "And it's supposed to be neutral."
Copyright 2013 - Reading Eagle, Pa.
McClatchy-Tribune News Service