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  • Going too Far ??

    Posted on Wed, Jul. 02, 2003

    Chief wants to check on 50 people
    He seeks background inquiries after two volunteer firefighters in Upper Pottsgrove had legal trouble.
    By Larry Lewis
    Inquirer Staff Writer

    UPPER POTTSGROVE - The police chief's letter, just three paragraphs long, was delivered quietly to the commissioners of this township near Pottstown two weeks ago.

    Police Chief Charles Maddona wrote that he had been made aware that two township workers - since identified as volunteer firefighters - had legal difficulties. He said one had a warrant for a bad check, the other had failed to pay a local tax bill.

    Maddona went on to request names, addresses, birth dates, driver's license numbers, and Social Security information on at least 50 people associated with the western Montgomery County township so he could do "a thorough background investigation on them."

    The commissioners took one look at the letter and deemed it a personnel matter that could not be discussed publicly.

    The township's 4,000 residents, however, are talking about it, and have broken into two distinct camps - those who think blanket background checks are good and those who don't, some of whom have called the ACLU's Philadelphia offices for advice.

    "There has been an effect," said Jon Downey, president of the Upper Pottsgrove Fire Company No. 1 since January. "It's not a good effect."

    Downey confirmed that background checks were carried out on the volunteer firefighters "unbeknownst to them." He said the investigations turned up "something of interest."

    One of the firefighters said he was seeing a lawyer yesterday to try to figure out what he can say or do now.

    He said he was told he was investigated after he was appointed to a volunteer post about four months ago. He said he never authorized a background check.

    Downey said the other firefighter mentioned in the letter had left the community.

    "We haven't been able to find him to straighten this out," the fire company president said. "He's disappeared. His girlfriend is gone with him."

    Downey said he had consulted a lawyer to make sure his rights are protected.

    Maddona wrote that he wanted the private information on Upper Pottsgrove fire police, firefighters, fire marshal, fire chief, office employees, road crew, Board of Commissioners, planning commission, civil service, parks and recreation, tax collector and others.

    Maddona's letter said that "we feel that it is owed to the community to have professional and reliable people associated with the township."

    "We feel that anyone who has nothing to hide will be more than willing to submit to the requested information in light of the recent findings," he wrote. "Anything that is found in the investigation will be turned over to the board of commissioners for their review and decision of what action should be taken."

    Maddona said in a telephone interview that he could not discuss the matter while it is under consideration.

    But he clearly indicated that he still is seeking the authority to conduct widespread background checks.

    David DiSabatino, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania, said he had gotten several calls about the issue from the township.

    "The courts have been very clear that background checks on government employees must be designed to further some government interest," he said he told the callers. "They cannot be used as fishing expeditions to find out things about employees."

    Township Manager David Paulsen said the municipality does background checks according to the position being filled.

    Officials said candidates for the Police Department are screened, as are the volunteers for fire police, who assist at the scenes of blazes. But the township has no clearly defined background-check policy, administrators said.

    Board of Commissioners Vice President Russell Noll said the matter was to be discussed at forthcoming meetings. The next board session is July 14.

    "We might have something to say later," he said.

    James D. Scheffey of Pottstown, the Upper Pottsgrove solicitor, did not respond to a request for comment.

    "The main issue is that he requested information on individuals," said Upper Pottsgrove Commissioner Julie Lyn Gallisdorfer. "I do not support this at all."

    She said she had retained a lawyer, as well.

    "I do not support any background checks without a person's consent and knowledge," she said. "I do not support background checks on volunteers."


    Nothing like having a little J. Edgar Hoover in charge!

    The one who owed Taxes is for a local tax of $95.00
    The other is for a check his ex-wife wrote in Oklahoma in 1991 when they were seperated.
    Last edited by Trafficjockey93; 07-02-2003, 12:27 PM.
    SAEPE EXPERTUS, SEMPER FIDELIS, FRATRES AETERNI
    "Often Tested, Always Faithful, Brothers Forever"

    Once a Marine, Always a Marine

    I got the best of both worlds- Firefighter and Marine

  • #2
    If they did this without the proper notification and consent, then it's wrong, that's true.

    As far as doing background checks in general, though, I'm all for it. We require background checks of all new applicants, and they are automatically rejected if they refuse to fill out and sign the consent form.

    Comment


    • #3
      The two background checks already done were done without the two subjects knowledge or authorization.
      SAEPE EXPERTUS, SEMPER FIDELIS, FRATRES AETERNI
      "Often Tested, Always Faithful, Brothers Forever"

      Once a Marine, Always a Marine

      I got the best of both worlds- Firefighter and Marine

      Comment


      • #4
        PSP?

        We require background checks for new members. We use the PA State Police (PSP) form that you send into Harrisburg w/a $10 fee. You can not be voted on for membership without it back. If you do not have a record, it comes back with a check mark by the PSP in the 'No known record' (or something like that) in that particular box.

        The new applicant has to send it (and pay for it). We do NOT run backgrounds WITHOUT permission.

        -Devil
        Once again....the above views are my own and not that of my department. (And probably should not be construed as having any real meaning, whatsoever!)

        IACOJ

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Going too Far ??

          Originally posted by Trafficjockey93
          The one who owed Taxes is for a local tax of $95.00
          The other is for a check his ex-wife wrote in Oklahoma in 1991 when they were seperated.
          Oh boy. Someone call in the SWAT team. How on earth are those two things such a big deal? The worst part is those two little BS things has casued such a uproar and led to this whole background check thing. For god sake, you'd think they turned up clues to a 20yr old unsolved homicide investigation.
          Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

          Comment


          • #6
            Maddona wrote that he wanted the private information on Upper Pottsgrove fire police, firefighters, fire marshal, fire chief, office employees, road crew, Board of Commissioners, planning commission, civil service, parks and recreation, tax collector and others.
            I am all for background checks. We do them on our new applicants but this is an entirely different beast. This is clearly a fishing expedition by the police chief. It sure seems like he's asking for permission to launch investigations without any probable cause and you've got to wonder about political motives. His bosses need to spank and spank hard. Unless I missed something, they were on the list to be investigated. I also noticed that the police force wasn't on the list. Maybe he already checks up on them.

            As far as the two folks with warrants, if they were my guys and I found out before they were picked up, I'd give them a very short amount of time to clear up the problem and then we would suspend them. Get arrested, and you get suspended until the charge is resolved. Minor or not, you can't have wanted people or people arrested and charged with criminal activity on active duty.

            Comment


            • #7
              This Chief is nuts.

              If the guys had warrants, be a cop and lock them up. Otherwise, turn your head.

              The ONLY way this guy can do what he did is to have an open and active criminal investigation. He can do whatever he wants with the targets of the invest. To do what he is doing is illegal. My guess is someone already told him that and he'll either stop or he won't be Chief much longer.

              Nobody is more pro-background invest. than I am, but this guy is way out of line.
              PROUD, HONORED AND HUMBLED RECIPIENT OF THE PURPLE HYDRANT AWARD - 10/2007.

              Comment


              • #8
                Officials said candidates for the Police Department are screened, as are the volunteers for fire police, who assist at the scenes of blazes. But the township has no clearly defined background-check policy, administrators said.

                The member with the bad check from 1991 is a Fire Policeman and has been for the past 4 years. He had a background check done 4 years ago and it wasn't a problem then, why is it now??

                This warrant is only good for the State of Oklahoma. They will not extradite.
                Last edited by Trafficjockey93; 07-02-2003, 08:13 PM.
                SAEPE EXPERTUS, SEMPER FIDELIS, FRATRES AETERNI
                "Often Tested, Always Faithful, Brothers Forever"

                Once a Marine, Always a Marine

                I got the best of both worlds- Firefighter and Marine

                Comment


                • #9
                  Based on the other article, it is clear the people who run the town have little concern for their fire department.
                  Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    What Bunch of Jerks........

                    Just one more reason why Fire/Rescue/EMS needs to be totally free from local government (Towns, Township, Etc.) intervention. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. Stay Safe....
                    Never use Force! Get a Bigger Hammer.
                    In memory of
                    Chief Earle W. Woods, 1912 - 1997
                    Asst. Chief John R. Woods Sr. 1937 - 2006

                    IACOJ Budget Analyst

                    I Refuse to be a Spectator. If I come to the Game, I'm Playing.

                    www.gdvfd18.com

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      What is wrong with a background check? Our insurance company requires an annual check. They will not cover anyone with a drug or alcohol related moving violation or any sex offender. I go through the same thing at my other job, I'm an electrician.

                      Tell the two to pay their bills and quit complaining. It is just a part of being an adult and getting along.

                      Brad

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Tell the two to pay their bills and quit complaining. It is just a part of being an adult and getting along.
                        Evidently you haven't read all the posts, because one was for a $35.00 local tax that the guy never knew was due and the other was for a bad check that wasn't his. How do I know?? because it was me. I hired an attorney and upon him asking the DA's office in Oklahoma a few questions it turns out that this was for someone with a similar name. So much for accuracy.
                        BTW we don't have a problem with background checks being done. Just the way they were to be done without anyone knowing they were being done.
                        SAEPE EXPERTUS, SEMPER FIDELIS, FRATRES AETERNI
                        "Often Tested, Always Faithful, Brothers Forever"

                        Once a Marine, Always a Marine

                        I got the best of both worlds- Firefighter and Marine

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Trafficjockey,

                          Glad you got the problem resolved. What I should have said was fix the problem. This was just a little incident that could have been fixed in a few minutes with a few phone calls.

                          The Chief of Police was just trying to create some press so he could feed his ego. Ignore him because you can't win this fight in public.

                          Background checks are done almost every time we do something. You apply for a loan, renew your drivers license, buy insurance, etc. Occasionally they get it wrong but most of the time its no big deal.

                          Brad

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I suspect there are probably motiviations that we don't know about behind this Chief's actions.

                            1. The Chief may really have only wanted the checks for a small group of employees, but he may have felt it would be easier to justify with a widespread policy. There is usually less of a stink raised when something is introduced as a blanket policy that applies from the highest to the lowest.

                            2. Maybe something internal had spiked his interest and he was just fishing for solutions. Such as an internal theft or fraud issue. He may not have wanted to make a big public issue and raise corruption claims.

                            3. Maybe he just wanted to keep up with the Jones's and cover his *** regarding due diligence. Most departments do this now, and it is not a big deal.

                            I can think of many relatively legitimate reasons why he may have wanted to do this, but obviously this guy stirred the pot a little too hard and the whole thing tipped over and burned him.
                            Never argue with an Idiot. They drag you down to their level, and then beat you with experience!

                            IACOJ

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Bowbreaker
                              What is wrong with a background check? Our insurance company requires an annual check. They will not cover anyone with a drug or alcohol related moving violation or any sex offender. I go through the same thing at my other job, I'm an electrician.

                              Tell the two to pay their bills and quit complaining. It is just a part of being an adult and getting along.

                              Brad
                              Apparently, you haven't been here for the past two years while this issue has been debated extensively. Maybe some research on these forums would be in order.

                              Very, very few people here are against background checks. Most of the people here want to weed out the bad eggs before they become bad fire fighters.

                              This post is not about background checks. This post is about the blatant abuse of power and authority by a police chief. I am a LEO in NJ. I can tell you for sure, that if I did what this guy did, absent having an open and active criminal investigation for a specific and valid purpose, I would go to jail for what he did.

                              And BTW, unless we are back in 16th century England, having an outstanding tax debt is not a criminal matter. In NJ, a $35 bad check is a petty disorderly persons offense, which is kind of like getting a jaywalking ticket. You don't get bounced from the FD over it.
                              PROUD, HONORED AND HUMBLED RECIPIENT OF THE PURPLE HYDRANT AWARD - 10/2007.

                              Comment

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