The township plans to make a decision about Chief Larry Bailets’ employment at a public meeting in June
About a year ago, North Hopewell Township police officer Bruce Timothy Quinan remembers when the chief of the department, Larry Bailets, installed a new phone landline in the office.
The phone was designed for someone with a hearing impairment, he said, and the volume of its ring was “unbearable.” It was enough, he said, to make you jump out of your seat.
That anecdote was part of Quinan’s testimony on Tuesday at the township’s municipal building in Felton, where the township board of supervisors and attorneys met for a roughly two-hour public hearing addressing Bailets’ employment.
Bailets, a veteran law enforcement officer who is in his early 70s, was placed on administrative leave late last year, according to his attorney Ed Paskey, who said it was over concerns about his hearing.
The hearing, which was requested by Bailets, saw testimony from two of the chief’s fellow North Hopewell officers and an audiologist from a York-based ear, nose & throat healthcare provider who recently tested his hearing.
The landline that Quinan talked about during his testimony has been uninstalled, he said, but there were other instances when Quinan and Officer Benjamin Grove noticed the chief had problems hearing.
“He’s always had hearing aids for as long as I’ve known him,” Quinan said. “I’m not a doctor or a hearing specialist. I would see things occur that would lead me to believe he was having trouble hearing.”
Larry Bailet, North Hopewell Police Chief talks about his hearing aids
Showing up in support of Bailets, York County District Attorney Tom Kearney spoke about knowing the chief for 46 years.
“Chief Bailets, in my opinion, is an excellent police chief,” Kearney said. “When I have interactions with him, he has appeared to hear adequately.”
That sentiment rang true with many residents who sat in on the hearing, at least one of which compared North Hopewell Township to “Mayberry.”
About 40 people were in attendance, and extra chairs had to be supplied once the meeting began.
“I want to see how this hearing is handled,” said longtime resident Cindy Dantro, 61, who works at York Hospital and has worn hearing aids herself for the last few years. “It seems to me that most of the complaints they’re addressing are about inconvenience.”
Hearing test discussed
Tina Grube, a nurse practitioner with York ENT Associates, testified about seeing Bailets last November for what he described to her as an “employer-mandated hearing test.”
She described the results of his test as him having “profound” hearing loss. She said that his “discrimination,” or his ability to hear exactly what’s being said, is impaired.
In her opinion, Grube said that the chief posed a risk to himself and others because of the impairments, according to Tuesday’s testimony.
But Paskey argued that the township applied the wrong standards during the test, pointing out a specific section of law that says the hearing tests are for “applicants” of police departments, not a currently serving officer.
“You all are applying the wrong standard,” Paskey said to supervisors Duston Grove, Rob Barclay and Bill Tollinger at the hearing’s conclusion. “Does he have a hearing issue? We’re not contesting that. Had we presented nothing, he would be discharged anyway.”
In August 2015, Grove said that he wrote a letter to all three supervisors about concerns over the chief’s hearing. Paskey asked Grove if he wrote to refuse to work with the chief. Grove responded that he did not believe he did so, but added that his shift and the chief’s shift did not match up.
When Quinan talked about an instance when the chief had his car radio up loudly, Paskey asked if affected his ability to do his job or if it jeopardized the community.
“No,” was Quinan’s response in both cases.
A ‘thank you’ from the chief
The township did not make a decision Tuesday. Barclay, a supervisor, said that Paskey and attorney Victor Neubaum (township solicitor) will have 30 days to present a written argument about the evidence and testimony. After that, the township has 30 days to make a decision. Barclay said that decision will come, for now, during a June public meeting.
Bailets, who wore a jacket and tie, stood up to speak for himself, his short speech-of-sorts drawing applause from the seated residents in front of him.
“It has been my pleasure over the past 38 years to provide service to the citizens of North Hopewell Township,” Bailets said to the crowd. “As you can well see today that service is coming very quickly to an end. Without regard to whatever decision the board of supervisors render here, it is fairly certain to me that my working relations here is virtually ended.”
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