Retired York Area Regional Police chief being paid 2016 salary

Liz Evans Scolforo

Retired York Area Regional Police Chief Tom Gross will be paid his entire 2016 salary as part of a separation agreement with the commission that oversees the police department.

A copy of the agreement was recently obtained by The York Dispatch, which on Dec. 18 filed a right-to-know request for information about Gross' retirement and any payouts he would be receiving.

The agreement was signed Nov. 11 by Gross and two members of the York Area Regional Police Commission, which is comprised primarily of local government officials in municipalities served by the police department.

Gross' last day working was Dec. 11. His retirement officially becomes effective Jan. 23, the agreement states.

"Upon full execution of this agreement, employee shall receive a lump sum payment in the gross amount of $112,257 representing the gross portion of his current annual base salary," but is subject to taxes and other "applicable deductions," including his required retirement contributions for Jan. 1 of this year through Jan. 22, 2016, the agreement states.

York Area Regional Police Chief Tom Gross looks over some historic photos of himself Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015. He retired in December of 2015. (Bill Kalina - The York Dispatch)

Gross will also continue to receive health care benefits for the 2016 calendar year, at a maximum cost to the police department of $1,400, it states.

"Employee will neither return to work, nor will he reapply for employment with employer in the future," according to the agreement.

No publicity: Gross and the commission agreed they would not "in any way seek to publicize or cause to be publicized in any way ... the facts or terms or conditions of this agreement" and also agreed not to "disparage each other in any way or manner or discuss the terms or circumstances which have led to this agreement, except as set forth herein."

Gross told The York Dispatch he could not comment about the agreement.

"The document speaks for itself," he said. "I can say it was my decision to retire, and ... I feel I conducted myself in an exemplary manner."

The agreement states much the same thing:

"Employer acknowledges that employee has neither been accused of, nor has committed, any malfeasance, act, omission to act, or any other circumstance that would give rise to his termination," it states, and it notes this was "a compromise settlement" in which Gross admitted no "unsatisfactory performance."

York Township Commission Al Granholm, who is chairman of the York Area Regional Police Commission, declined comment Friday, saying it was a personnel matter.

Attorney Steve Hovis, the commission's solicitor, did not return a phone message seeking comment, and neither did Windsor Township Supervisor Jo Anna Shovlin, who serves as vice-chair of the police commission.

Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015--Then York City Police Sergeant Tom Gross in a 1979 photo. He retired in December of 2015. (Bill Kalina - The York Dispatch)

Miss the people: Gross, who was born and raised in York City, said he's looking forward to having time off and spending it with his family.

"I'll miss the people here mostly," he said. "They never cease to amaze me. They really are heroes sometimes but won't take credit for that."

Gross, 64, graduated from Penn State in 1973 with a bachelor's degree in what was then called law enforcement and was hired the same year as a York City Police patrolman, briefly serving as a seasonal cop in Wildwood, New Jersey, between graduation and being hired by the city.

In the '70s, city officers walked beats their entire eight-hour shift. His was South George Street from College Avenue to Jackson Street, back and forth.

"And if you were walking the beat, you had to have your wits about you," Gross said.

York Area Regional Police Chief Tom Gross packs personal items Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015. He retired in December of 2015. (Bill Kalina - The York Dispatch)

Bar fights: Those were days in which officers mixed it up with drunks in bar fights and street rumbles, he confirmed.

"I've been in fights and saw stars," Gross said, noting that York City's crime rate for was much higher in the 1970s and '80s than it is now, and that includes violent crime.

In 1978 he was promoted to patrol sergeant, supervising the night shift, then was promoted to lieutenant in 1989 and to captain in 1992, he said.

While an officer, he earned a master's degree from Villanova University in human organizational sciences/criminal justice in the mid-1980s, he said. Gross was briefly named acting chief in 1994, then named acting chief again in the fall of 1995.

He was hired in 1996 as chief of the York Township Police Department, which in 2000 merged with neighboring departments to become York Area Regional Police.

"That's probably the hardest thing I've ever done — combining police departments," Gross said, and also what he's most proud of. "Everything had to be now. There were literally hundreds of tasks."

The department has been accredited by the Pennsylvania Law Enforcement Accreditation Commission since 2008, he said.

"I feel some ownership for what has happened here," Gross said.

Academy teacher: He also has served on the board of the International Association of Chiefs of Police and teaches at Harrisburg Area Community College's police academy.

"I like to interact with the young people," he said. "They're enthusiastic about this career and motivated for the right reasons. I feel I have something to share with them."

Gross said he looks forward to spending more time with his wife, Marian, a retired nurse, and their two daughters and four grandchildren. Photography is one of his hobbies, and his grandchildren are a favorite subject.

He enjoys playing golf and remains active in Christ Lutheran Church on South George Street in York City.

Gross said he was able to avoid the thing he most dreaded as police chief — having an officer killed on duty.

He said the best advice he could give to York Area Regional Acting Chief Tim Damon is that "you can't take all this home with you every day," and noted the families of police officers carry the burden of law enforcement too.

York Area Regional Police Chief Tom Gross talks about his impending retirement at his office Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015. He retired in December of 2015. (Bill Kalina - The York Dispatch)

Provided opportunities: Damon said Gross allowed officers to attend training exercises, join county teams such as the Drug Task Force, Forensics Team and Quick Response Team, and move forward in the police department.

"I will always appreciate the opportunities he gave me because I would not be in this acting role if he hadn't," Damon said. "He understood ... this is a bigger picture, and he provided resources so we could be effective not only in our jurisdiction but in York County as well. He (was) definitely the senior chief in the county and has done a good job for a long time."

Retired District Judge Douglas Meisenhelter, also a current senior district judge as well as a retired York City officer, worked closely with Gross.

"He and I went to the police academy together. ... Our families have known each other for 80, 90 years," Meisenhelter said, adding he has trusted Gross with his life during shootouts and other life-and-death situations when the two patrolled York City together.

"He is a man of courage," as well as a role model and consummate officer, Meisenhelter said. "He wasn't one of those who, when things started to get difficult, disappeared. If you did the right thing, he stood by you. And that's the role of a supervisor, plain and simple."

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