Narberth borough manager charged with DUI

Posted: August 03, 2014

Narberth is a town best known for its idyllic downtown, July Fourth fireworks, and friendly neighborhoods. Recently, though, problems have intruded upon the placidity.

Borough Manager William J. Martin, 65, was charged last week with DUI after a Lower Merion Township police officer noticed the car Martin was driving moving erratically along City Avenue.

The arrest came just weeks after the reinstatement of a veteran officer on the six-member Narberth police force who had been fired by borough officials for exposing himself at a local bar and who acknowledged a drinking problem.

Most borough officials won't comment on either matter, saying they cannot talk about personnel issues. Mayor Tom Grady would say only, "I have 100 percent confidence in the management and leadership of the borough."

Narberth is small, with 4,200 residents living in its half-square-mile area. The borough manager oversees about 12 full- and part-time employees, Grady said. Martin has been in that job for 31 years, with his current salary at $92,200.

It was 2:30 a.m. July 20 when a Lower Merion officer noticed the silver Subaru Impreza that Martin was driving southbound on City Avenue near Old Lancaster Road, the police complaint said.

A short time later, according to the document, the officer approached the car, which had stopped, and noticed that Martin had "red, watery eyes, slurred speech, and the odor of an alcoholic beverage on his breath."

He refused to take any sort of sobriety test, and was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance.

Allegations of too much to drink also figured into an incident with a different Narberth employee.

Last month, borough officials released an opinion and award issued in March by Lancaster-based arbitrator James M. Darby regarding the firing of Police Officer Michael T. Gannon.

Martin and Gannon, through his attorney, declined to comment.

The Police Department - five officers and one sergeant - doesn't fall under Martin. The borough code gives that supervisory role to the mayor.

In December 2012, according to an account in the arbitration report, Gannon downed "numerous cocktails" with fellow officers at Al Dar Bistro, a Bala Cynwyd restaurant, where they were feting a retiring colleague. The revelry moved to the Greeks, a bar in Narberth, where, the report said, Gannon pulled down his pants and exposed himself.

Later that night, his colleagues stopped him from doing so again. The report said Gannon, who has been with the department since 1997, also made an inappropriate comment to a female officer.

The report refers to a letter Gannon wrote to Grady after he was told that the borough was considering disciplining him. In it, he admitted a drinking problem. He took responsibility for his "reported behavior" even though he could not recall the night's events.

The arbitrator's report lists 10 times between 2003 and 2007 when he was disciplined for misconduct, including sleeping in a patrol car, giving a Nazi salute in a group photo taken at a training class, and mishandling evidence.

After the rowdy retirement party, Grady recommended to the Borough Council that Gannon be fired. At a Feb. 11, 2013, meeting, the council dismissed Gannon, who then filed a grievance.

In his report, the arbitrator also said the borough "did not have just cause to terminate" Gannon, and gave him back his job with the time away to be called a suspension without pay. Gannon returned to duty on June 16.

The arbitrator also applied conditions to Gannon's reinstatement, including that he remain sober and acknowledge that further misconduct could get him fired for good.

"I'm disappointed in the decision," Grady said, "but I will fully abide by the terms and the letter of the law."

Gavin Goschinski, president of Lower Merion Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 28, which includes Narberth, saw a connection - meeting standards of conduct - between Gannon's and Martin's cases.

He called both incidents "unfortunate and embarrassing. . . . I hope that Mr. Martin would hold himself to the same standards that the borough holds its officers to" and resign.

Grady disagreed: "We'll have to let these things take their course."

610-313-8109 @carolyntweets

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