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Published: Thursday, 10/15/2009

Waterville Township police chief quits, ends inquiry into behavior

BY BRIDGET THARP
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Waterville Township trustees accepted the resignation of police chief Kathleen Hartle last night, more than a month after she was suspended under allegations that she had an open container of alcohol in her police cruiser.

The trustees were expected to meet with her last night in a closed administrative hearing regarding the allegations.

Instead, they accepted her resignation with a 3-0 vote during a regular board meeting. Mrs. Hartle had been on paid sick leave immediately after an incident Aug. 26 during a trustees meeting.

She was suspended from her job with pay on Sept. 9.

"For medical reasons, I am saddened to share that my family and I have decided that it would be best for my health and well-being to resign as the chief of police for the Waterville Township Police Department," she wrote in a letter to the township trustees dated yesterday.

The letter was sent by way of fax late Tuesday by Mrs. Hartle's attorney, Jerry Phillips, to Waterville Township solicitor Walt Celley.

Criminal charges will not be filed against her, because "there is no sufficient evidence to pursue any criminal or traffic charges in this matter," Waterville Village Prosecutor Kevin A. Heban wrote to trustees Oct. 2.

Before the township trustees adjourned last night, Chairman Brett Warner moved to go into an executive session to discuss "the hiring of public employees."

The few residents who turned up at the meeting to learn the chief's fate were asked to step outside the one-room township hall.

Township resident Lou Leasor said he was pleased there would be no criminal charges and believed the trustees should have given the chief a second chance - though perhaps a demotion - had she not resigned.

"Everybody makes mistakes," Mr. Leasor said.

"Everybody should be given the chance to take care of their problems and get help. We all rush to judgment sometimes."

Another resident, Tony Urbas, disagreed.

He said that it was unfair that the chief wouldn't face harsher consequences and thought the trustees handled the situation improperly.

"There should have been more done," Mr. Urbas said. "Why was she not criminally prosecuted? They should have called the Waterville police or the state police to handle it."

Mr. Urbas referred to an executive session Aug. 27 to discuss personnel issues as an "illegal meeting," and said it was improperly publicized.

Mr. Warner refuted any such complaints after the meeting.

"At no point did this board ever try to cover anything up," Mr. Warner said. "The police turned it over to the prosecutor, and the prosecutors did their job. We've never entertained trying to hide anything. We never tried to hide anything."

Chief Hartle was D.A.R.E. officer for the Anthony Wayne school system for seven years, until the Aug. 26 township meeting at which she was "verbally abusive" to Trustee Chairman Brett Warner, a police report said.

"Kate was just not herself," Mr. Warner told The Blade afterlast night's meeting, referring to Mrs. Hartle's conduct at the August meeting.

"We didn't feel safe having her drive home," Fiscal Officer Kaye Ann Robertson added.

Sgt. Eric Varner, who is now acting police chief, wrote in his police report that he did not smell alcohol on Chief Hartle when he drove her home in his patrol vehicle. Mr. Warner, the trustee chairman, told the sergeant she told him her unusual behavior was related to a medical condition.

After the meeting adjourned, the township trustees declined to discuss specifics of the medical condition.

"We wish Kate the best," Mr. Warner said of the former chief.

Contact Bridget Tharp at:

btharp@theblade.com

or 419-724-6086.



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