On Saturday, Ed Paskey, attorney for fired Fairview Township Police Chief Scott E. Hockenberry, having heard the community speculation about the firing of his client, released this statement:
"I've known Scott for 15 years. He is an excellent public servant. The entire situation is rather pathetic. There are now people making statements to the media who are making assumptions about the reason for his termination. The fact is the township provided no specific reason or incident to justify his termination. When people make uninformed statements like they have, neither Scott, nor the township benefit."
And those assumptions?
Among them is that the chief's firing is related to a photo showing Hockenberry, in civilian clothing, next to a woman exposing her breasts.
Paskey said in an interview that he hasn't seen the photo and he doesn't know whether it had any influence with the township's board of supervisors when it decided on Thursday to terminate Hockenberry's employment.
"I don't know all of the circumstances," Paskey said, adding that he wasn't going to go into any "specific legal aspects" of his client's firing.
The township hasn't said why it ended Hockenberry's nearly nine-month-long tenure as its police chief. Hockenberry, a 18-year veteran of the department, took over as chief in the county's northernmost township in late February, promoted from lieutenant.
Township solicitor David Jones said Friday the board made the decision in an executive session, not open to the public and not required to be public under the state's Sunshine Law. Jones would only say that an investigation conducted by an outside counsel unearthed evidence that was "egregious enough to terminate his employment."
Since the township has not made public the results of that investigation, or any explanation for its action, that has led to speculation in the community that, perhaps, the now well-publicized photo had something to do with it.
Mike Treaster, a friend of Hockenberry's, said he took the photo at a biker festival in Ocean City, Md., in September as a joke. He said Hockenberry posed for the picture, standing next to the woman with his right arm over her shoulders, not knowing that the woman was going to pull down her top when the photo was snapped. In the photo, Hockenberry is looking at the camera and appears to be unaware that the woman is exposing her breasts.
Treaster said he sent the photo to a friend, who then circulated it widely. "His co-workers went crazy with it," he said.
Hockenberry could not be reached for comment.
A lifelong resident of the township, he joined the police department as a patrolman in September 1994 and was promoted to sergeant in 2003 and then to lieutenant in January 2007. He was the fourth police chief in the history of the department, established in 1968, replacing Bernard Dugan who left to take a job in Lebanon County.
Support for Hockenberry
People opposed to Fairview Township Police Chief Scott E. Hockenberry's firing have started an online petition that indicates it will be given to William C. Brown, chairman of the township's board of supervisors.
As of 3:15 p.m. Saturday, the petition had 76 "supporters" -- although one signature was from someone who said Hockenberry should be at least suspended if not fired. Others vouched for Hockenberry as a good man and good police officer.
The petition can be found at www.change.org. Choose "Browse petitions" and type "Hockenberry."