UNION TOWNSHIP Chief files grievance over 5-day suspension
The chief's attorney said he thinks the suspension is the result of politics.
By MARY GRZEBIENIAK
NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- Union Township Police Chief Joe Lombardo has filed a grievance against the township after being notified of a five-day job suspension, which begins Monday.
The grievance hearing will be a closed session with township supervisors at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday.
Lombardo's lawyer, Dave Acker, said Lombardo is considering a lawsuit against the township. He called the suspension ridiculous and said, "It can be summed up in one word: politics."
Demotion effort: Acker noted that Supervisors Ralph Nuzzo and Kevin Guinaugh -- the only two of three township supervisors to sign the letter of suspension -- had tried last year to demote Lombardo in an effort they later discovered violated the Police Tenure Act. He said he thinks the current controversy is a continuation of their efforts to get rid of him.
Nuzzo said the third supervisor, Steve Galizia, knew about the letter but would not sign it. "I'm sure he was told about it. I'm sure he knew. ... He wouldn't sign it."
Galizia, who has publicly supported Lombardo, called Nuzzo's statement "absolutely 100 percent wrong" and added, "Ralph is lying through his teeth." He said he did not learn of the suspension until Lombardo telephoned him after receiving the letter Friday morning.
Galizia said Nuzzo and Guinaugh made the decision to suspend Lombardo in an informal meeting last week with police union representative Bob Sessions and township Secretary-Treasurer Sally Byler. "Kevin and Ralph decided to put a suspension on Joe. They were the judge and jury," he said.
Reason for suspension: The suspension stems from an allegation that Lombardo had pushed Byler after he was asked to leave a room in which Yvonne Coleman of South Round Street was complaining about the police department's handling of the egging of her house and truck.
Guinaugh said the resident wanted to talk to him in private but Lombardo kept trying to interrupt.
He said the resident was unhappy with Lombardo's handling of the situation, but Guinaugh would not be more specific.