Potential Brentwood police matters lead to new attorney for mayor

| Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014, 7:21 p.m.

A new attorney will help the recently elected Brentwood mayor oversee potential changes in the town's police department.

Those likely will include adding regulations to help expedite cases where there is drug activity at a home, reviewing administrative procedures and looking at consolidation with other police forces, Mayor Dennis Troy said.

“We're looking at the tools and ways in which you administer a department that yields you the most success,” said Troy, who was sworn in as Brentwood's mayor on Jan. 6.

“As we take a look at these best practices, it's good to have somebody to take a look at the law as well and how those are going to impact our upcoming labor discussions.”

Council members in a 5-2 vote on Monday appointed the law firm of Cohen & Grigsby P.C. as special legal counsel to handle matters associated with the police department.

Councilman John Frombach and Pat Carnevale dissented.

Troy requested separate counsel to help implement what he is calling “best practices” for the police department, along with police department labor issues, council members said. The mayor said this firm has the “breadth and depth” to go beyond labor issues and review other issues.

Brentwood has hired Campbell, Durrant, Beatty, Palombo & Miller P.C. as the municipality's labor counsel for the last four years. They were reappointed for this year in a 4-3 vote on Monday. In that capacity, the latter firm has handled matters relating to the police department, Frombach said.

Having a special counsel for police, a borough labor counsel and a borough solicitor brought questions from some council members.

“I don't see where we should have both,” Carnevale said. “It's unneeded.”

Having a law firm that does not participate in contract negotiations with the officers is beneficial, Troy said.

Councilman Rich Schubert said he is concerned that hiring a special counsel will mean more bills.

Council is in charge of hiring the law firm, and therefore has the control over this matter, solicitor Thomas Ayoob said.

“You control the purse strings,” Ayoob said.

Cohen & Grigsby will charge between $210 and $290 per hour.

Former Mayor Ken Lockhart questioned if Troy talked to the other legal counsels to see if they would be able to handle these duties. He also asked if anything had been brought to council to show where else Cohen & Grigsby has worked and their accomplishments.

Troy said “no” and that this was a selection of preference.

“I'm glad to see that council is untying the mayor's hands to get involved with thing,” said Lockhart, who left office in January. “For the last 12 years, I was able to sit on my hands, limited in my authority as a mayor. Hopefully it will do good for you mayor.”

The special counsel will represent borough council and the mayor, council President Marty Vickless said.

“The mayor's role with regard to the police department is very limited and very clearly articulated in the borough code and it's not as broad as council's rights for the police department,” Ayoob said.

Troy said he has ideas he plans to pursue regarding the police department, including implementing a resolution that would have drug nuisance cases bypass the magisterial district judge and sent the cases straight to Common Pleas Court.

The new mayor also said he might have a study done about consolidation opportunities with other police forces in the area, something similar to what has been done in the North Hills, he said.

“It's not meant to suggest that that's my goal, that's my objective,” Troy said.

Stephanie Hacke is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5818 or shacke@tribweb.com.

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