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Ex-police chief sues Monroeville over firing

| Tuesday, July 15, 2014, 10:31 a.m.

Monroeville violated the First Amendment, federal disability laws and the state whistle-blower protection law when officials fired former police Chief Steven Pascarella, the veteran police officer says in a federal lawsuit filed on Tuesday.

Pascarella, 46, of Monroeville claims the municipality denied him short-term disability payments, refused to accommodate his disability and fired him in April in retaliation for reporting security breaches of Monroeville's emergency dispatch system.

Monroeville Manager Tim Little said that the municipality did not terminate Pascarella's employment, but he suggested that Pascarella was no longer able to work because of his medical condition.

“Nobody fired him,” Little said, “he initiated that by applying for worker's compensation.”

After Pascarella filed for short-term disability in October, two independent physicians determined he wasn't well enough to work as a police officer, so the municipality sent him a letter explaining his options that included applying for long-term disability, Little said.

Pascarella resigned as police chief in November and was appointed as a lieutenant, though he remained on short-term disability at that time. The lawsuit does not describe Pascarella's disability.

His attorney, Joseph Chivers, and Monroeville's solicitor, Bruce Dice, did not return calls seeking comment.

Monroeville Council members Ron Harvey and Linda Gaydos said on Tuesday they were befuddled by the lawsuit, because last week, the municipality's insurance provider approved long-term disability for Pascarella.

Pascarella said in the lawsuit he was denied an extension of short-term disability status in April as retaliation for reporting security breaches by the town's emergency dispatchers. He reported the violations to state and federal authorities.

Little said the municipality granted 26 weeks of short-term disability, but officials denied the extension in April.

Little said the language in the collective bargaining agreement is “ambiguous” as to whether an officer should have been guaranteed an extension of short-term disability while a long-term disability case is pending.

Brian Bowling is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-325-4301 or bbowling@tribweb.com. Kyle Lawson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-871-2369 or klawson@tribweb.com.

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