North Huntingdon debates ex-chief’s suit settlement |
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Joe Napsha
Pittsburgh attorney Timothy P. O’Brien (left) and former North Huntingdon police Chief Andrew Lisiecki discuss a settlement in Lisiecki’s federal lawsuit against the township at O’Brien’s office in Downtown Pittsburgh on Thursday, Sept. 6, 2018.

North Huntingdon may have settled a federal lawsuit for $600,000 filed by its former police chief, but the debate over the decision to fire him two years ago and the appropriateness of the settlement continues.

Bruce Dice, township attorney, suggested that the township should not comment on the settlement with Andrew Lisiecki — which was announced Sept. 6 — other than a brief statement from Dice emphasizing the township’s liability insurer made the decision to end the legal matter and paid the bulk of the settlement.

“The document (settlement) speaks for itself,” Dice said.

The township paid a $20,000 deductible as part of its insurance policy with National Casualty Co., Jeff Silka, township manager, revealed in response to a Right to Know request filed by the Tribune-Review.

But commissioners — both current and former — weighed in, reopening a bitter divide on the board.

Zachary Haigis, board president, opposed Lisiecki’s firing by the four-member majority in September 2016. He said he still does not know why three current commissioners — David Herold, Anthony Martino and Darryl Bertani — and former Commissioner Mike Faccenda Jr. wanted to fire Lisiecki.

Haigis implored people attending Wednesday’s meeting to hold those commissioners responsible and vote them out of office.

Commissioner Duane Kucera, a retired police officer, said he predicted at the time the township would pay a six-figure or seven-figure settlement to Lisiecki.

Former commissioner Richard Gray, who opposed the firing, reiterated that Dice had told the commissioners in an executive session prior to the firing that Lisiecki would sue the township and the chief would be paid “a lot of money.”

Gray predicted the insurance company will recoup the money by charging the township higher premiums.

Bertani, who made the motion to fire Lisiecki, said he stands behind his decision to fire the former chief, who was hired in 2012. Bertani said he received legal advice from both Dice and his law partner, Craig Alexander, before seeking Lisiecki’s dismissal.

“Everything was on the up and up,” Bertani said.

Had he been deposed in the lawsuit, Bertani said he would have provided attorneys with three pages of reasons for the firing.

Martino said he also was not deposed but believes the department is “100 percent better” than it had been.

In a surprise appearance, Lisiecki walked in during the meeting, handed an envelope to a township secretary and left. Kucera later said the envelope contained gun bash tickets.

“They did not have a case,” Lisiecki said of the lawsuit as he stood outside the meeting room.

The termination letter clearly stated he was “fired for no reason,” said Lisiecki, who now works as a school police officer in the West Mifflin Area School District.

Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer.
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