Cheswick police chief sues borough over contract breach, overtime pay |
Valley News Dispatch

Cheswick police chief sues borough over contract breach, overtime pay

Brian C. Rittmeyer
Cheswick Borough Building

Cheswick police Chief Bob Scott sued the borough this week, alleging officials breached his contract, failed to pay him overtime and retaliated against him when he asked for compensation.

The 28-page lawsuit, filed Tuesday in federal court in Pittsburgh, outlines years of alleged unpaid overtime, failed contract and budget negotiations with borough council and subsequent “embarrassment and humiliation” when council reduced Scott’s salary by 10 percent in 2016.

Scott is represented by Christian Bagin of Pittsburgh-based law firm Wienand & Bagin.

Among the accusations in the lawsuit:

• The borough breached Scott’s contract by reducing his rate of pay from $73,700 to $66,590, effective Jan. 1, 2017.

• The borough breached Scott’s contract by not paying him overtime at 1 12 times his base pay, which Scott claims also affects his pension contributions that are based on his yearly pay.

• Council President Paul Jack retaliated against Scott by pushing to lower Scott’s pay when he wouldn’t agree to a proposed new contract.

• Jack directed the borough secretary to omit from the official meeting minutes Mayor Dan Carroll’s comments in favor of the chief during the Feb. 20, 2018, council meeting.

Scott claims in the lawsuit that, in the weeks following his reduction of pay, he was “embarrassed and humiliated” when residents asked him what he did wrong to have his pay reduced. He further claims this loss of trust from the community made it hard to do his job.

Scott said in the lawsuit his overtime is unavoidable because he’s the police department’s only full-time employee. He maintains he often fills in the shifts that part-time officers can’t fill.

Scott is seeking full back pay and benefits, including pension contributions, attorney’s fees and associated costs, liquidated and compensatory damages and an additional payment to offset the adverse tax consequences of receiving the damages in a lump sum.

“It’s unfortunate that it has come to this, and we are hopeful that Cheswick will come back now and try to make it right without need of further litigation,” Bagin said.

Cheswick Solicitor Joe Lucas had no comment on the case Friday, citing that he wouldn’t comment publicly on current litigation.

Cheswick Secretary Ian Fitzgerald provided a prepared statement acknowledging the lawsuit, but offered no further comment.

He said the lawsuit does not affect Cheswick police operations and residents should still call 911 if they need police assistance.

Carroll had no comment on the lawsuit, but did say his comments were omitted from the official Feb. 20, 2018, meeting minutes.

Jack had no comment, citing that the issues involve personnel and legal matters.

Scott sent a letter to borough council, dated Feb. 13, advising officials he had hired Bagin. At that time, he expressed an interest in reaching a resolution to contract negotiations, but was prepared to retire and seek a severance package if negotiations didn’t progress.

Scott’s employment is based on two agreements — an officers’ contract that expired at the end of 2012 and a chief’s agreement that has no expiration date. The officers’ contract, despite its expiration date, remains in effect because the chief’s agreement references it.

Cheswick spends about $300,000 a year to run its police department.

The borough is researching the possibility of merging police departments with neighboring municipalities.

Emily Balser is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-226-4680, [email protected] or via Twitter @emilybalser.

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