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Dormont chief’s resignation creates discord |

Dormont chief’s resignation creates discord

Matthew Santoni
| Thursday, December 22, 2011 12:00 a.m

With the resignation of acting Police Chief Richard Dwyer, contention and confusion again flared over who should be in charge at the Dormont Borough Police Department, with council ultimately deciding it should be the town’s only active sergeant.

Following Dwyer’s last day on Dec. 14, Mayor Thomas Lloyd asked council to appoint Patrolman Phil Ross as acting chief. But council instead tapped Sgt. Ralf Zawischa as sergeant-in-charge and acting chief.

“That’s council’s decision to make,” said borough Manager Gino Rizza.

The town has three sergeants, but two are off the job with injuries. Ross was still receiving a sergeant’s pay, Lloyd said.

Rizza said council is not yet searching for a full-time chief, pending the result of an appeal over Ross’s demotion to patrolman.

Ross had been the chief until March, when council demoted him, saying he failed to obey its directives. The borough’s Civil Service Commission overturned that decision in July, but Ross had since been demoted again to patrolman, and council appealed the commission’s ruling to Allegheny County Common Pleas Court.

The appointment of an acting chief is a continuation of the yearlong struggle between the mayor and council over control of the department.

Lloyd maintains that the borough form of government gives him control over the police, while council members say they and the borough manager hold that power.

Council in June appointed Dwyer to replace Ross. Dwyer came out of retirement from Wilkinsburg Police to act as an “administrative chief” because his state certification to make arrests had lapsed. Dwyer quit last month, saying he faced too many challenges from the mayor.

Dwyer said Lloyd frequently questioned or overruled his orders and memos. Lloyd tried to suspend Dwyer in August after he decided not to schedule extra officers to work while three were testifying in court, but council had already given Dwyer a pre-emptive letter reinstating him in the event of a suspension.

Zawischa and the mayor clashed this summer. Lloyd ordered Ross to disconnect GPS tracking units in police cars — which later led to Ross’s demotion to patrolman — then briefly suspended Zawischa in June when he reactivated the units.

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