STRUTHERS City won't pay legal bills for police captain
The mayor says bad bookkeeping by the police chief caused the misunderstanding.
By PAUL WHEATLEY
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
STRUTHERS -- City officials say they don't plan on providing legal defense for a police captain being sued by a department secretary for obtaining her private work records.
Capt. Thomas Skovira, who has 28 years with the police department, is being sued for $750,000 in compensatory and punitive damages by Marilyn Amadio, who says she suffered mental anguish resulting from Skovira's investigation of her.
Court documents show that in March 2000 Skovira received an anonymous tip that Amadio was working at Kaufmann's department store in Southern Park Mall during hours she was receiving pay from the city.
Skovira and retired Struthers police officer Joseph Gabriel Jr. received Amadio's work schedule from November 1999 through March 2000 from the department store and reported the matter to city council.
What happened: Amadio has worked full time for the city since 1997. Court documents show Amadio worked part time for Kaufmann's several years before April 2000.
The dispute, city officials say, concerns about 22 hours inaccurately documented by Police Chief Robert Norris that show Amadio was working for the city and Kaufmann's at the same time.
Mayor Dan Mamula said Norris had made an agreement with Amadio where she could make up odd hours she worked at Kaufmann's during different shifts for the city.
"Terrible record-keeping caused [Norris] a problem," said Mamula.
But Michael W. Piotrowski, Skovira's attorney appointed by the Fraternal Order of Police, said the city is punishing the messenger.
Amadio and Norris were both suspended from work three days without pay Aug. 21, 2000, by Public Safety Director John Sveda, and Skovira was suspended six days without pay Sept. 11, 2000. They opted to use vacation time to compensate for the suspensions.
"It's a matter of doing my duty," said Skovira. "I'm sworn to do my duty and people are castigating me for it."
Procedural problem: But Mamula believes proper procedure, such as reporting up the chain of command, was not followed.
"He went out [to Kaufmann's] off the clock, out of uniform, with a former officer," said Mamula. "Our position is, no officer has the right to launch an investigation with any resident under the colors of the law without following proper procedure. We're not vigilantes here."
Skovira was not directed by the city to conduct an investigation of Amadio, the suit says.
The city investigated the case from March through September 2000.
Meanwhile, Skovira's defense has resulted in about $5,700 in private legal fees, which are currently being split between himself and the FOP.
Piotrowski said that although the FOP will not abandon Skovira, it has no interest in continuing payments that the city is required to pay.
He cites a 1991 Mahoning County Common Pleas Court case, Rogers vs. City of Youngstown, that eventually went to the Ohio Supreme Court, in which a judge ordered the city to defend a Youngstown police officer who got into a fight with his sister and was sued by her.
Mamula said Skovira's claim for representation was turned over to the city's insurance company, which doesn't believe the city is responsible for Skovira's defense.