KANE — Kane police chief Brian Hillard was suspended without pay on Monday after being charged with allegedly falsifying state firearm certifications for members of the borough police force.
Mayor Doug Caldwell announced the suspension on Tuesday after a closed-door meeting of borough council’s personnel committee.
Hillard, 42, was arraigned last week on second-degree misdemeanor charges of unsworn falsification and tampering with public records. It is unclear whether a conviction would affect Hillard’s certification as a police officer. The charges were filed by the state Attorney General’s Office.
Under Pennsylvania law, the penalties for conviction on a second-degree misdemeanor would be a fine of not less than $500 or more than $5,000; or imprisonment not exceeding two years, or both.
Between February 2011 and July of this year, Hillard allegedly submitted false information regarding firearms certification dates for three Kane Borough Police officers on the state’s Municipal Police Officers’ Education and Training Commission’s Officer Recertification Roster, according to court records.
In the meeting on Tuesday were council members Holly Harris, Janet Bard and Caldwell. Councilman Dennis Drost was unable to attend the meeting, however, Harris said the consensus was that all the committee members were in agreement with Hillard’s suspension.
Pennsylvania Borough Code, Article XI, Section 1124, states that a police officer may be suspended by the mayor “until the succeeding regular meeting of Council, at which time or later the Council may, subject to the civil service provisions of this act, if they be in effect at the time, suspend, discharge, reduce in rank or reinstate with pay, the police officer.”
In a statement prepared prior to the press conference, Caldwell said, “I am disappointed in Chief Hillard’s actions but have confidence in our judicial system to render a decision that will be fair to all in involved. The charges of falsely reporting, in writing, on information of the government is a second-degree misdemeanor and a very serious accusation.”
Caldwell said Hillard would be suspended for at least 10 days, but he cannot be reinstated any earlier than the next meeting of the full council on Sept. 23. He also stressed the borough will not incur any legal expenses related to the incident. Caldwell was unaware of whether Hillard would retain benefits during the suspension.
Caldwell said patrolman Heath Boyer will be the officer in charge of the borough police force.
The 43-year-old Kennewick, Wash., native is a 15-year veteran of Kane Borough Police and also has been working concurrently for the Elk County Sheriff’s Department for 16 years. Boyer is a seven-year veteran of the U.S. Army and currently serves as a staff sergeant with the Pennsylvania National Guard unit based in Kane. He was deployed to Iraq for a year in 2008-09. He lives in Kane with his wife, Lisa, and his two children, Emma and Mason.
Boyer said currently all borough police officers are legally qualified with their firearm certifications and are also up-to-date on all CPR and first aid certifications as well.
Caldwell said that, between Hillard’s suspension and other officers taking vacation time, the police department could address any further coverage issues with adding more part-time officers to its roster. Boyer said there are already two applicants interested in working with the department.
“We have a part-time budget,” Boyer said. “It’s not like when (the borough hires) full-time. They give us a part-time budget. I don’t think it matters if we have 50 part-time police officers, as long as we stay within the budget.”
“They only cost us money when they work,” Harris added.
A preliminary hearing for Hillard has been set for 1 p.m. Sept. 9 in Kane with Magisterial District Judge David Engman presiding.