County denied access to fire report

By Randy Bartley

Staff Writer

CLARION

A state police fire marshal has issued a report on the blaze that damaged the building at 22 North Sixth St. in Clarion last month, but the owners of the building haven't seen the report.

Clarion County owns the building, but the fire marshal's report was sent to Clarion Fire Department.

""We have been told we cannot get a copy of the report," Clarion County Commissioner Ted Tharan said last week. "We will have to get a subpoena to get a copy of the report."

The county's insurer, the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania, has been contacted regarding the matter.

The Sept. 5 fire forced the temporary evacuation of District Judge Duane Quinn's office space and the Clarion County Probation Department.

Tharan said until the fire marshal's report is obtained the county will not know the full extent of the damage.

It is a believed a burning cigarette that was disposed of in a plastic ashtray caused the fire. That will not be confirmed officially until the fire marshal's investigation is released.

The county attorney is pursuing the matter.

In the past, state police fire marshal findings have been routinely made public by press releases. It is not clear why that procedure has changed.

In other business at the Oct. 8 Clarion County commissioners meeting, the board of commissioners announced they hope to reach a new contract agreement with one employee union but negotiations are still ongoing with a second union.

The sheriff's deputies are represented by the Butler County Community College Police Department. That contract expired in December 2018.

Tharan was optimistic about that contract.

"I think the sheriff's deputies are almost done," he said. "We are making progress."

The court-related employees, represented by the Teamsters, are currently in arbitration. Their contract expired in December 2017.

The arbitrator has made a ruling but the county hasn't received the report. The county and union have the option to accept or reject the non-binding report.