KENNETT TOWNSHIP — Kennett Township Supervisors unanimously voted Wednesday night to fire Police Chief Lydell Nolt.
Nolt was placed on administrative leave on Nov. 20, 2019 after he informed Township Manager Eden Ratliff that he was the subject of a criminal investigation by the Dauphin County District Attorney’s office concerning a sexual assault allegation. The township was notified at the end of December that no formal charges were being lodged against Nolt.
Immediately after placing Nolt on administrative leave, Kennett Township began an independent investigation into the conduct of Nolt during the alleged incident and his tenure as chief of police. Nolt became chief on July 15, 2015. The results of the investigation determined sufficient evidence existed to establish Nolt violated the Police Tenure Act.
Kennett Township engaged specialists in police law and employment and conducted its own independent investigation into the incident. That investigation found sufficient evidence to determine Nolt violated the Police Tenure Act, which governs the behavior of police officers, and recommended termination.
The Act allows for the dismissal of a police officer if the officer exhibits “inefficiency, neglect, intemperance, disobedience of orders, or conduct unbecoming an officer.”
Contacted by phone Thursday morning, Nolt said he could not comment, but added that the matter is not over.
After supervisors Whitney Hoffman, Richard Leff and Scudder Stevens thoroughly reviewed the information provided by the independent investigation, Nolt was given the opportunity to resign but he chose not to do so.
The township had been conducting its own investigation of the situation with the help of specialists in police law and employment. That investigation concluded that sufficient evidence existed to establish that Nolt had violated the state’s Police Tenure Act, which governs firings and other employment matters involving police officers. The supervisors said they offered Nolt the opportunity to resign, and he chose not to.
The supervisors said the law allows officers to be terminated for, among other things, “inefficiency, neglect, intemperance, disobedience of orders, or conduct unbecoming an officer.”
The supervisors would not say exactly what Nolt had been fired for, but said they felt it was necessary. Supervisor Scudder Stevens said he was “very disappointed.” Vice-Chair Whitney Hoffman said it was “horrible and disappointing on just about every level,” but added that it was necessary to show that they were trying to hold all township personnel to the highest standards possible.
In both public comments and one-on-one conversations, the supervisors had always expressed the highest regard for Nolt’s temperament and professionalism. And even as they voted unanimously to fire him, they continued to emphasize that they did so regretfully and wished it were not necessary.
The supervisors appointed Sergeant Matthew Gordon to be interim chief effective immediately. Township Manager Eden Ratliff said Gordon had been leading the department since Nolt was put on administrative leave. He has 32 years of law enforcement experience in the county, according to Richard Leff, the chair of the supervisors.
Also, on Wednesday, supervisors appointed Sgt. Matthew J. Gordon acting police chief. Gordon, a law enforcement veteran with more than 30 years of experience, has been in charge of the Kennett Township department since Nolt was placed on administrative leave.
“Matt is an excellent police officer with 32 years of experience in the county,” said Leff. “The safety of our residents is in good hands with Matt and our police force.”
Since 2016, Gordon has been responsible for overseeing the Patrol and Detective units of the Kennett Township force. He continues to be Deputy Commander of the Chester County Regional Emergency Response Team (SWAT). From 2010 until 2016, he was a detective with the Chester County District Attorney’s office as a member of the Chester County Detectives. He was part of both the Major Case Unit and Drug and Organized Crime Unit.
Gordon began his law enforcement career with Parkesburg police force as a patrol officer and then as lieutenant with the Coatesville City Police Department.
“Matt has exceptional credentials,” Leff said. “He served in the United States Marine Corps Reserve for six years an aircraft firefighting and rescue specialist. His schooling includes the FBI National Academy and he has advanced training in many law enforcement areas. He has never stopped learning.”
Prior to being assigned at the chief of police in Kennett Township, Chief Nolt served as a Pennsylvania police officer for more than 17 years and a private sector business CEO for 13 years. Chief Nolt started his police career in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Nolt has held police related assignments in criminal investigations, drug investigations, focused traffic safety programs and community policing projects during his tenure as a police officer.