HARTLETON — One day after a suspended police chief in Union County was convicted of theft by extortion, you can still find plenty of people who support what he was trying to do.
He allowed drivers a way out of speeding tickets if they donated to the borough’s playground fund.
The swings are still at the playground in Hartleton. There are no children laughing or playing at the facility which was at the center of suspended Hartleton Police Chief Donald Zerbe’s extortion trial.
Zerbe was found guilty of theft by extortion, which means the jury agreed that Zerbe used his office to sell favors. He let drivers out of speeding tickets if they donated to the Hartleton Playground Fund.
“I don’t see any harm with it. I think he did a good job,” William Moran said.
“He’s a good man. I’ll stand by him” Robert “Chick” Vonneida said.
Many people who live in Hartleton agree with these statements and believe Zerbe did the right thing.
“I think that what he’s doing is good for the community. I don’t see any harm or foul in it. I don’t think what he’s doing is illegal,” Moran said.
“I’ve never known him to do anything wrong. But like I said, people make mistakes. If this was a mistake, I’m sure he regrets it,” Vonneida said.
Some other people who live in Hartleton did not want to go on camera, but they tell Newswatch 16 they’re happy with the verdict because they believe what Zerbe did was wrong.
During Zerbe’s trial, Hartleton’s treasurer, Wendy Styers testified that the Hartleton Playground Fund was established in 1972 as a way to pay for the playground’s expenses. Styers told the court the playground’s bank account currently has less than $2,000 in it.
Styers testified it costs about $2,000 to maintain the playground each year. According to Styers, besides being funded by the chief’s speeding ticket money, the Hartleton Playground Fund gets money from donations.
According to Hartleton Mayor Jim Dorman, no decision has been made regarding Donald Zerbe’s job as police chief. Borough council will make that decision and as of now, no meeting has been scheduled. Lieutenant Jim Galbreth is the acting police chief in Hartleton. Prosecutors say Zerbe’s sentence could carry jail time. But that decision will be up to the judge who sentences him.