Geci suspended, appeals ruling

Ridgway Borough Police Officer and part-time Elk County Sheriff's Department Deputy Shawn Geci was recently handed a 30-day suspension without pay from borough council.The suspension comes while Geci is appealing a Jan. 20 ruling by Cameron County District Judge Alvin Brown, who found the officer guilty of two gaming law violations which supposedly occurred Dec. 3, 2010.According to Ridgway mayor Guillermo Udarbe, borough officials and council were aware of Geci's appeal when it voted to slap him with a 30-day suspension without pay.According to Udarbe, borough officials had two meetings prior to the Feb. 21 council meeting which featured an executive session.Officials reportedly conferred with borough solicitor David Pontzer regarding what action could be taken regarding Geci's alleged violation of gaming laws.Pontzer, Udarbe, and other borough officials reportedly conversed with an unnamed attorney out of Pittsburgh via telephone in an effort to discuss legal details and explore multiple proposals regarding possible action against Geci.The proposals included a one-month suspension without pay, demotion, or termination from the ranks of the borough police department.Upon further review and consultation, council decided to suspend Geci for 30 days without pay.After Geci is reinstated, Udarbe indicated that there would be the possibility of a demotion if deemed necessary. That decision will reportedly be a joint decision handed down by both Udarbe and police chief Ralph Tettis.Despite electing to take action over a week ago with the suspension, borough officials did not officially release the information to the general public until late Monday afternoon."At the end of the executive session, David Pontzer recommended that we not publish any official report to the media since he was off-duty [at the time of the incident]," Udarbe said. "We like to protect the rights of our citizens. "We also are aware that he has appealed the [district judge's] decision."While Geci serves his suspension handed down by the borough council, he has been able to increase his visibility as a part-time deputy for the county's sheriff's department."If [Geci] is generally working at the borough full-time, it's generally harder for him to work many hours at the sheriff's office because he's generally day shift at the borough," said Elk County Sheriff Jeffrey C. Krieg. "I understand that it's some people's concern that [Geci] should automatically be suspended at the sheriff's office; however, my experience with 30 years as a cop in the FOP [Fraternal Order of Police] as a contract negotiator tells me that a summary offense does not rise to the occasion of conduct unbecoming an officer."Krieg indicated Monday that his policies and procedures are not dictated by Ridgway's borough council and there is no reason for him to suspend Geci because he "wasn't in any capacity of being an Elk County sheriff's department deputy" when he supposedly committed the two gaming violations.