WESTFIELD — A resident here is accusing Borough Police Chief Dale Niles of impropriety and conflicts of interest, with the matter getting heated at the Westfield Borough Council meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 10.
“You’re the worst police chief we’ve ever had,” said resident Lorie Card, addressing Niles at the meeting. He replied with, “Thank you.”
Card presented a letter to the borough council outlining her concerns and asking for a formal investigation into Niles by an outside source. Card also said she collected more than 200 signatures in a petition to remove him from the police force.
According to an email chain, that letter and other documents were sent to a Gmail account reportedly belonging to Mayor Elizabeth Rowland on Sept. 8. On Sept. 22, that email account appeared to respond to Card that the letter had been sent to borough council. Council President Gail Bollinger, however, said this week’s meeting was the first members of council were seeing the letter. Rowland, who oversees the police department, was absent from the meeting due to illness.
In Card’s letter were concerns about Niles’ relationship with a Westfield Township resident who owns a business in the borough and currently has several charges pending in court, including felony animal cruelty and harassment.
“If Chief Dale Niles has nothing to hide, he should welcome such an investigation. It would put most of the public at ease and build a better a relationship with all involved,” said Card.
“I’m fine with it,” replied Niles.
Niles told the Free Press-Courier, “It’s all hearsay. All you heard in there was ‘I heard. I heard.’ None of what was said in there is true.”
Niles added that he’s had people approach him over the years concerned with perceived conflicts of interest, such as running his side business out of that Westfield Township resident’s house. “I run my business out of my house,” he said.
After hearing from Card and adjourning the meeting, council entered an executive session regarding personnel with no action taken.
Also at the meeting, council heard from residents concerned with the upkeep of certain buildings in the borough.
“Why is it the Baker house cannot or will not follow the building code?” asked resident James Streeter. “If we can’t enforce it for the safety of our residents, what’s the use?”
Council Vice President Shaunta Vahey told Streeter that Erb Inspections determined that a civil suit would need to be filed to take further action. She added council has no phone number for the owner of the property, only an address to send bills.
“A lot of buildings are falling down. These landlords move people in who don’t care if they live like that,” said resident Tammy Baker. “I also can’t believe the garbage on porches and sidewalks.”
Card added, “Westfield looks like crap. People lost pride in this town a long time ago.”
Vahey said residents should call the borough to report excess garbage, but that there’s no one to enforce building upkeep ordinances. “If there’s a violation, it becomes the borough’s problem. We don’t have the money to fix these buildings or tear them down. We’re not Wellsboro. We don’t have the tax money those people do,” she said.
Vahey said she’s looking into grants to address the issue of unkept buildings.
In other business, council:
- Approved the advertisement of its 2021 budget with no tax increase.
- Approved new sewer rates at an 18% increase. Residential rates will increase from $50 to $60 and commercial from $60 to $70.
- Settled two grievances to refund insurance money, one to the borough police department and the other to borough employees employed between January and October 2018. Councilmember Roger McCullen voted against settling the police grievance and abstained his vote in the public works grievance.
- Approved the purchase of two of three new computers needed, including one for the police department using its technology budget. The computers will have web cameras to accommodate virtual meetings.
- Discussed buying an electronic speed limit sign. Bollinger said new one was quoted at $5,000 but used ones have been found online for half that price. Chief Niles said traffic studies show such signs are effective at encouraging drivers to slow down. No action was taken, but the line item will be left in the budget.
- Heard from Borough Secretary Lori Nelson that she’s applying for money to help fix sewer lines in the 10 ar
- eas needing it the most.