Caernarvon, Berks residents pack board meeting to support police chief

Caernarvon Township Police Chief Paul Stolz Photo by J. Finneran/Tri County Record.

When the Caernarvon Township board of supervisors asked how many members of the assembly were present to support Police Chief Paul Stolz at the April 15 board meeting, the vast majority of hands went up.

The status of Stolz’s position was recently called into question in the community after newspaper ads surfaced seeking a new sergeant. Dozens of supporters of Stolz attended the board meeting, and many questioned the board’s reasoning on the matter and advocated for an extension to the chief’s contract, which was only renewed for six months at the end of 2013.

“We the people are here because we would like to stand up for Paul,” said community member Roseanne Thomas. “We would like you to keep him and extend [the contract], and if you don’t, you are going against the people who voted you into office.”

Many felt that Stolz had fulfilled the goals and objectives laid out in his job description.

“There are certain objectives that the chief is supposed to meet,” said community member Lenny Smith, who presented copies of the chief’s current and previous contracts. “So I am going to assume that the chief fulfilled objectives from the 2009-2012 contract. There is nothing else in the 2013 contract for a year.”

Supervisor Scott Moyer explained that each contract includes a clear job description, but said that goals and objectives sometimes go beyond the conditions of a set contract.

“Not every objective that this board would give [to Stolz] as a responsibility would necessarily be written into the contract,” said Moyer. “There may be issues that come up that he needs to work on that aren’t in the contract.”

However, Supervisor Allen Styer later emphasized that while each board member must come to their own individual decision when voting, his would be based on the responsibilities outlined in the contract alone, and nothing outside the contract. He added that anyone in the chief’s position would be held to the same standard.

Residents also asked about rumors that Stolz’s termination had already been set for June, when his current contract expires.

“I personally think that this is a done deal,” said Smith. “I think [the chief] is out of here. The word on the street in the township is that the chief is going to be done in June.”

Board members discounted these claims, explaining that a final decision has yet to be made.

“If you are telling me that a decision has been made, you know something I don’t know,” said Moyer. “I don’t think it’s unreasonable to have not done anything at this point. There has to be time for people to meet and to make decisions. Nobody here can give you an answer as to what’s going to happen.”

“There are a lot of rumors out on the street, and there are a lot of them that aren’t true,” said Styer.

Community members appeared concerned that the board’s decision may be swayed by personal matters. At one point, Moyer made allegations against the police department.

“If I was on the board, I would be putting any personal agenda aside here,” said Smith. “I would hope this would be a personnel matter and not a personal one.”

Additional residents spoke highly of Stolz, outlining his impact on the community.

“He is the best chief we’ve had in a long time,” said former Supervisor Lou Gable. “The number of people here for him tonight is indicative that there is a lot of support for him here in the community.”

Former Supervisor Shirley Beningo added that although she was the only supervisor who voted against hiring Stolz when he first came to the township, he has since “proved [her] vote incorrect.”

“He has made this community a considerably better place and also made it his home,” she said.

“Paul’s been to FBI training. That’s not someone you find very often,” Beningo added. “All of the years that he had of experience at Oxford, that has a considerably more colorful crime rate, shall we say. He brought all of that experience to this township and I think that’s extremely valuable. He is worth every penny of my taxes that go to his salary, and I don’t think that you’re going to have a very easy time at all replacing that man.

“This isn’t something personal; this is about every taxpayer, every resident, every kid, every schoolchild and the 1 million people plus who come on and off the turnpike every year that go through this township. Please consider this very seriously.”

Beningo’s comments were met with applause from supporters.

Board members assured the assembly that their decision would reflect the best interests of the township.

“Sitting on this board, I can guarantee each and every one of you we’ll do what’s best for the township and the community,” said board member Paul Whiteman.

When the board returned from an hour-long executive session to discuss personnel issues later in the evening, Stoltz’s contract was not discussed further.