Police chief files suit for payment |

Police chief files suit for payment

Jefferson Hills officials are in for another court battle after the police chief filed a lawsuit seeking payment for what two courts have said was the borough’s violation of his contract for early retirement.

The lawsuit filed by Chief John Maple in Common Pleas Court names the borough as the defendant and asks for $69,185 plus expenses.

The dispute dates to August 2001, when Maple was offered an early retirement package, which Borough Council approved 4-3. The idea was that the borough could save money over time by hiring another chief at a lower salary and fewer benefits. A raise approved in May 2002 took Maple’s annual base pay to $65,948.

Days before his retirement, Maple was notified that Mayor Mary Larcinese vetoed the contract, which had been signed by the borough secretary and council president.

Maple challenged the veto, claiming the mayor didn’t have that right to strike down a contract. Judge Ronald Folino ruled in his favor to reinstate the contract.

However, the borough’s insurance carrier, Fireman’s Fund, recommended an appeal on Folino’s ruling and the council agreed. Commonwealth Court upheld the lower court ruling and forbade any further appeals by the borough, said Michael Colarusso, attorney for Maple.

The lawsuit says the borough promised payments for accrued vacation and sick time in addition to a $55,141 early retirement incentive payment.

Maple said Friday that he believes the mayor’s veto of the retirement package was a “political move.”

“The mayor and I get along well. We have a good relationship,” he said. Maple, 64, has been chief 13 years and with the department since 1964.

Larcinese, who did not return phone calls to her home and office yesterday, earlier said she vetoed the contract because she did not think the borough could save money through the early retirement.

Council members who originally voted for the retirement package were current council President Gary Hartman, Vice President Janice Cmar, Michael Kulish Jr. and former council member Brian Militzer. Those voting against it were current members Thomas Becker, Emerson Christofel and Gail Nuss, according to court documents.

Current council member Kevin McFarland declined to comment on the case.

Hartman, Cmar, Kulish and borough Solicitor Charles LoPresti did not return phone calls for comment.

Maple is not the only employee to sue the borough. Police Sgt. Michael D’Alessandro filed a federal lawsuit in July against the borough, Larcinese, Maple and the department, claiming a suspension was based on a grudge that Maple and Larcinese had for him. That lawsuit is currently pending.

D’Alessandro went before the Jefferson Hills Civil Service Commission in August to appeal his suspension. No ruling has been made on that case.

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