West York council members could have reviewed proposals for police service two area police departments submitted but instead, the majority of council voted to destroy the documents without their being opened.
Both proposals - one from Northern York County Regional Police and the other from York City police departments - were shredded Monday night after council voted 4-3 to do so.
Northern York County Regional Police Chief Mark Bentzel said he was surprised when he heard the borough shredded his department's proposal without even looking at it.
"I was surprised it actually happened," he said. "To not even look at our proposal, that's disappointing."
He estimated that his department spent at least 10 hours putting the proposal together.
York City Police Chief Wes Kahley declined to comment on his department's proposal's being shredded, other than to say, "The acceptance or use of the proposals was purely up to the elected officials of West York."
Legal expert: Since the proposals were never opened, it doesn't appear the borough violated the state Sunshine Act, said Melissa Melewsky, an attorney with the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association.
"They are not a public document until they are opened and rejected," she said.
Council president Steve Herman had said the proposals were to have been opened during a police committee meeting and CGA, the law firm that represents the borough, would create a spreadsheet to share the information with residents.
After reading the Sunshine Act, councilman Shane Louthian said he believes it was violated when the proposals were shredded, adding the destruction was an "injustice" to the public.
"In my eyes they were public record," he said, adding that Herman acknowledged publicly during the meeting that the proposals were received by the borough.
While the proposals may not have been public documents, the fiasco that was West York's requesting the proposals was a concern to Melewsky. Especially since it wasted police officials' time and the money of taxpayers that live in York City and Northern York County Regional's jurisdiction, she said.
"I think the bigger issue is not if the proposals are public but that they (council members) are wasting time and money," Melewsky said. "If nothing, they're wasting the constituents' time."
- Reach Greg Gross at firstname.lastname@example.org.