Ex-New Castle police chief sues city over his dismissal

By jeanne starmack



The former New Castle, Pa., police chief has sued the city and two of its council members over his dismissal in January.

Thomas Sansone, 51, filed the suit in federal court earlier this week. He is suing council President Maryanne Gavrille and council member Richard Beshero. Sansone claims they conspired to get rid of him because he investigated wrongdoing by Gavrille’s friend and alleged wrongdoing by Gavrille herself.

The suit also says Gavrille wanted revenge because he refused to promote an officer she wanted promoted.

The suit also alleges age discrimination, saying that after Sansone left his post, the city failed to consider the two oldest officers eligible for the position.

The suit says that Sansone investigated Gavrille for suspicion of forgery on protection-from-abuse documents. He took charges to the Lawrence County district attorney, who declined to prosecute.

“... thus, plaintiff incurred the great animosity of, and expressed desire for revenge by, defendant Gavrille,” the suit contends.

The suit also says that during the summer of 2010, city police investigated a theft at Sylvan Heights Golf Course, which is owned by the city.

It says Beshero and Gavrille “took the unusual step” of coming to the police station and demanding a review of evidence in the investigation.

The suit says the investigation resulted in the arrest of Renee Warso, who is a friend of Gavrille’s.

“Defendant Gavrille made known her dissatisfaction with the plaintiff’s actions in investigating and in directing the arrest of Ms. Warso; and further let it be known that she had a personal relationship with the alleged criminal actor and that she did not wish to see her prosecuted,” the suit contends.

The suit asks the court to order the city to reinstate Sansone to his position or a comparable one.

He wants earnings, salary, wages and benefits he would have received.

He also wants his discipline files destroyed.

City officials have been directed to refer questions to the city’s solicitor, Jason Medure.

“We consider the allegations in his complaint to be baseless,” Medure said Thursday.

“He had the opportunity to remain a member of the department, and with overtime could have made more money than the police chief,” Medure said.

Sansone opted to retire after council voted 3-1 in January not to reappoint him despite the recommendation of the mayor that it do so.

Richard Yerage was the one who voted to retain Sansone.

William Panella, the third “no” vote, was not named in the suit.

“[Panella] is a longtime respected member of the community and he was Lawrence County district attorney for 15 years,” Medure said.

Gavrille and Beshero refused repeated requests by The Vindicator in January to explain their reasons for voting to terminate Sansone. Panella was not available to comment at that time. Attempts to reach him Thursday were unsuccessful.

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