WILKES-BARRE — Another city police officer was notified of disciplinary action against him by the chief, bringing the total to six within the department and four this week alone, the head of the police union said Thursday.
Sgt. Phil Myers, president of the Wilkes-Barre Police Benevolent Association, said the officer notified the union Wednesday night.
“He received a suspension,” Myers said.
Myers, who also is facing a suspension and possible termination along with Officer Dan Duffy, vice president of the PBA and a former Scranton police chief, declined to identify the four other officers.
But Mayor Tony George counted a total of five. One of the officers failed to show up twice for special detail assignments, the mayor said in response to the union’s running tally.
“He wasn’t suspended. He wasn’t even reprimanded,” George said.
The group complained that the officer was nowhere to be found and Chief Marcella Lendacky acted on it, the mayor said. “There’s nothing on his record,” he added.
Myers saw it differently, saying the officer worked the details and was disciplined by being suspended from working them.
“It’s a significant time period. More than likely it’s going to cost this officer thousands of dollars,” Myers said.
“I don’t see how that’s not discipline,” he added.
The suspensions further divided the union and George, a former police chief, who upon taking office in January 2016 introduced his “Law and Order” campaign into headquarters with the appointment of Lendacky to run the department and change past practices. The union questioned her qualifications and reacted to her management of the department by filing numerous labor complaints against the city.
Lendacky has said she cannot comment on personnel matters.
The union has publicly confirmed that Myers and Duffy face suspensions for posts on the union’s Facebook page in April that reportedly disclosed confidential department policy.
Duffy could face additional discipline and is the focus of an internal investigation for “harassing” emails he sent to the mayor and City Administrator Ted Wampole in defense of a PBA member wrongly accused by Commander of Patrol Ron Foy, the union said in a post Wednesday.
The union, which represents more than 70 patrol officers, sergeants, lieutenants and detectives, has declined to discuss the length of the unpaid suspensions its members face or when they will be served. None of the suspensions is being served currently, Myers said.
The officers can first appeal to the chief and, if denied, can then go to the mayor, Myers explained. If the mayor denies an appeal, the union will then file a grievance, he said.
‘A cancer within’
The latest discipline notification was for a loaded handgun found in a holding cell at police headquarters last year, Myers said.
That brings the total to two officers for the gun, one for the special details and another for reportedly refusing to assist someone who had information about a missing person, Myers said.
He corrected a statement by Mayor George on Wednesday that two officers were disciplined for the gun incident. At that time, only one officer had been notified, Myers said. He also corrected the mayor on the missing person incident.
The officer was not at the walk-up window at headquarters when someone came in to say they had information on where a missing person could be found, Myers said.
“It was actually a telephone conversation,” said Myers. And contrary to the mayor’s account, Myers said the officer did not refuse to do his job when he told the caller to speak to the officer who took the missing person’s report. The officer on the phone was following recently implemented policy that prohibited him from seeing another officer’s report, Myers said.
In a post on its Facebook page Wednesday, the union agreed “there must be consequences” for any PBA member who has done wrong. “But, the Chief’s over the top discipline makes it obvious that this is nothing more than an attempt to silence and ‘bust’ our union,” the post said.
All six officers are union members and four are on the PBA board, Myers noted.
The post also questioned the timing of the disciplinary actions. They were issued a week before city council is scheduled to discuss bringing in an outside agency to conduct an independent review of the department, a request first made by the PBA late last year.
“Accountability and structure, which no longer exists in our department, is something that was in place before Chief Lendacky took over. Therefore, it is something that we are not afraid of,” the post stated. “Retaliation and harassment, however, is something that our membership has not experienced in a very long time but, unfortunately, now has become a cancer within.”
Council chairwoman Beth Gilbert and councilman Bill Barrett, another former city chief, have been working on a resolution that will be introduced at council’s public meeting Oct 5 . Barrett said they are leaning toward the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association of Harrisburg to do the review.