This had apparently happened on November 7, and reportedly, municipal manager Crandall Jones was the person who called the police in. Here are statements gathered by Carl Rotenberg of the Times Herald about Mr. Zawisza's departure:
Crandall Jones: "He's on vacation."
Council V.P. Bill Caldwell: "All of that needs to go through Crandall. It’s a personnel matter."
Councilwoman Linda Christian: "It’s kind of open. We will all know more within a week. Richard has not been fired. He is on leave."
Councilman Cyril Burke: "I thought he was going to be away for a short period of time.”
Councilman Marlon Millner: "So far as I know Mr. Zawisza has not been terminated. I can neither confirm nor deny that Richard was escorted out of the building." He also added that council had not been asked to fire Zawisza.
Our other council reps wisely didn't answer their phones.
As noted by Mr. Millner, council does the hiring and firing, so of course Mr. Zawisza can't have been fired because council hasn't met (at least publicly) since November 7. They DO meet tomorrow night, and as is typical for public meetings in Norristown, no agenda has yet been posted.
So let's look at what we do know. Why the police escort? Only 3 explanations occur to me.
1- Mr. Zawisza did something criminal. But then, they don't escort you OUT of 235 E. Airy for that. They take you downstairs to arrest you.
2- Mr. Zawisza was somehow incapacitated enough that he couldn't find his own way out of the building. But then they would have taken his keys and not let him drive.
3- Mr. Zawisza refused to leave the building when asked. But that means he was asked to do so, indicating that this wasn't a voluntary leave. That leads me to believe that, if Mr. Zawisza is "on vacation," as Mr. Jones said, it's because the director is being forced to use up vacation time, and that sounds like he's going to be fired.
I can't speak to the question of WHY Mr. Zawisza was forced to take leave or if he deserved it. Honestly, given our council's track record, I'm certainly NOT going to assume the finance director did anything wrong. Seems kind of suspicious that this incident took place just before the budget workshops get underway.
Regardless, I have to wonder why the powers that be at Municipal Hall would be so imprudent as to use a police escort to make a public spectacle of the event. If Mr. Jones feared that Mr. Zawisza might do some sort of damage if allowed to leave on his own, well then, you do what any business does--a manager quietly walks the worker out of the building. Why publicly humiliate the man after four years of service to Norristown?
Maybe that's how things are done where Mr. Jones is from. Here, Norristown taxpayers would rather see our police officers out clearing the streets of drug dealers and gangs, rather than acting as personal bouncers for the municipal manager. This could have been handled so much better. Why do we have to have drama and secrecy out of Municipal Hall every week? It's like raising teenagers.
I can't make the council meeting tomorrow night. I'm a musician, so as the holidays approach, my calendar is loaded with rehearsals and performances. I hope whoever attends will ask for clarification about Mr. Zawisza's status. Not that I think council will give any kind of an honest answer, but the question ought to be on the record.