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County constables no longer to patrol West End Fair

By Chris Reber, Pocono Record, Stroudsburg, Pa.
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Aug. 18--For at least 18 years, Monroe County's elected constables have provided security at the West End Fair.

That service will come to an end when the fair opens Sunday, after the two sides were unable to agree on compensation and liability insurance.

Constables are law enforcement officers who primarily serve warrants, but for years have provided armed security at the fair alongside the county sheriff's deputies.

"We were there because we wanted to offer our service to our community," said Roger Metzgar, president of the Monroe County Constables' Association. "We're elected all over the county. Our job is to keep the peace. We have statutory arrest powers, and private security doesn't have that."

This year, they requested coverage under the fair's liability insurance. They said the fair agreed, but not without reducing the amount they pay the constables -- which Metzgar said is less than market rate.

Metzgar said the constables provide professional service at a rate that is lower than most private security firms.

"Our guys are highly trained. We go through quite a bit of update training each year. For what we have to offer, and what we're facing when we're there, we shouldn't take a pay cut," Metzgar said.

They now understand that the fair has hired a private security firm to take their place this year. Fair officials were unavailable for comment.

The constables asked to be covered under the fair's insurance this year because a constable lost his own insurance as the result of an incident that occurred at the fair. Up until this year, they had worked as independent contractors, providing their own insurance.

In 2011, a pair of constables took a woman into custody at the fair. State police charged her with disorderly conduct, but she was eventually found not guilty.

The woman then sued the constables, the trooper who charged her, and the fair association for the wrongful arrest, alleging that she suffered permanent injuries as a result. The lawsuit is still pending.

Because of the lawsuit, that constable lost his own insurance and is unable to fulfill his daily duties.

Metzgar said the constables asked the fair to provide liability insurance. The board agreed to provide liability insurance and workman's compensation insurance, but asked the constables to take a $2 per hour cut in pay -- from $16 per hour to $14.

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Metzgar said the constables offered to work for as low as $15 per hour, but that offer was rejected. Metzgar said that the constables voted and decided to leave the $14 offer on the table. Individual constables were given the option of working at the fair's rate without their colleagues, but Metzgar said they all declined.

"We don't tell our members what to do, we're just a collective. Everybody stuck together," he said.

Asked if the constables' association would consider returning to the fair, Metzgar said that he would want to see them paid more than $16 -- based on what private security firms receive and the constables' training.

"They're going to have to pay for the caliber of service that we're giving," he said.

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(c)2014 the Pocono Record, Stroudsburg, Pa.

Visit the Pocono Record, Stroudsburg, Pa. at http://www.poconorecord.com/

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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