Judge says Nanticoke police chief hired illegally; mayor promises appeal

By Patrick Kernan - [email protected]
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NANTICOKE — A Luzerne County judge has determined that Nanticoke Police Chief Thomas Wall was hired illegally.

If the order stands, the city would have to have a new chief by Oct. 1.

But the mayor is promising to appeal this week’s ruling.

Judge William H. Amesbury’s order comes in the wake of a suit that was filed shortly after Wall’s 2016 hiring. The suit, filed by the City of Nanticoke Police Officers Association, alleges that the city violated state law in hiring Wall.

Wall, a retired state trooper, was appointed by Mayor Richard Wiaterowski. But state law requires that a candidate for chief must be chosen from within the ranks of the police department. If a suitable candidate cannot be found within the ranks, only then can an outsider be appointed.

The union alleged that this step was skipped, despite Lieutenant Michael Roke expressing interest in the position after it opened following the 2016 death of Chief William Shultz.

The union also suggested a conflict of interest, given Wall’s position on the Police Civil Service Commission. The union also pointed out Wall’s wife, Donna, is the interim city manager.

Judge Amesbury’s decision affirms a motion filed by the union in May 2017, which asked for an order removing Wall from office.

This week’s order does just that. It states that Wiaterowski will have to appoint a new chief Oct. 1 unless the city appeals the ruling.

The mayor said an appeal will happen.

“The city respectfully disagrees with the Court’s opinion and will be appealing this decision to a higher court,” Wiaterowski said in a statement sent to a Times Leader reporter Friday. “We are confident that this appointment was proper and in accordance with my powers as Mayor of the City of Nanticoke.”

Efforts to reach Wall for comment were not immediately successful Friday afternoon.

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By Patrick Kernan

[email protected]

Reach Patrick Kernan at 570-991-6386 or on Twitter @PatKernan

Reach Patrick Kernan at 570-991-6386 or on Twitter @PatKernan