Worthington faces lawsuit by ex-chief
WORTHINGTON — A former Worthington police chief claimed in a federal lawsuit filed on Monday against the borough that he was fired after repeated confrontations with elected town officials over alleged unlawful acts, including the theft of fire department equipment by the mayor.
William DeForte, 42, of Clinton, is suing Worthington Borough; Mayor Kevin Feeney; Barry Rosen, a borough council member and constable, and Gerald Rodgers, the current chief of police.
DeForte, who has been with the Worthington police since 2009, said he wants his name cleared and to be reinstated as Worthington's chief with full back pay, benefits and compensation to cover expenses, including court costs and attorney fees.
According to the lawsuit, DeForte was fired Nov. 5 for what Feeney alleged was insubordination or other possible offenses.
To date, Worthington officials have not provided any statement of charges against DeForte, nor given him the opportunity to be heard, the lawsuit said.
Worthington solicitor Roger T. Mechling of Kittanning said through his secretary that he would not respond to a reporter's questions about the case.
Neither Feeney, Rosen nor Rodgers could be reached for comment.
DeForte's federal lawsuit is one of two filed on Monday against the borough by a former police officer.
Evan Townsend, 42, of Brookline is suing the same individuals named in DeForte's lawsuit and claims council initially fired him from its police force for not writing enough traffic tickets, rehired him two months later and then fired him again without providing a reason.
“I think that there is a lot that is going to come out with regards to what is going on in Worthington Borough,” said Attorney Craig H. Alexander, who is representing DeForte and Townsend.
“Mayor Feeney and councilman Rosen had their hands in a lot of things that they shouldn't have,” said Alexander.
As a result, said Alexander, DeForte and Townsend have both lost their jobs.
DeForte's is claiming that in late October, Feeney removed five radios from the Worthington-West Franklin fire department without authorization.
The lawsuit said that when DeForte confronted Feeney on Oct. 24 he acknowledged taking the radios. He asked if DeForte was investigating him and promised to return the radios.
DeForte also said in his lawsuit: “Both Mayor Feeney and councilperson Rosen were often overheard telling the rank and file of the police department that they had to earn their salary through ticket writing, and if they wanted a new cruiser they had to write enough tickets to purchase one.”
DeForte claims he repeatedly advised both men that the quota system was unlawful. He also said he questioned Feeney about Feeney's use of a police borough emergency equipment grant to repair red lights in the borough without approval from council.
On Oct. 26, two days after the discussion about the grant money, Feeney removed the police computer and the hard drive from the police department and refused to return DeForte's calls concerning the matter, the lawsuit said.
Later that day when Feeney and Rosen arrived at the police department, Feeney informed DeForte that he was suspended and allegedly threatened to report him to the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives regarding a missing gun – which was later found at the police department.
Rodgers was promoted to police chief when DeForte was fired.
According to the lawsuit DeForte contends that his suspension and subsequent firing were discussed in an executive session before a public council meeting on Nov. 5.
He argues in his lawsuit the discussion was a violation of the state open meeting law which requires that an employee be given notice that potential discipline may be discussed in executive session. He said an employee has the right to request in writing that the matter be discussed in public.
Brigid Beatty is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-543-1303 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Kittanning Light Up Night a celebration of holiday spirit, bittersweet endings
- West Kittanning health center could reopen after Pa. Supreme Court ruling
- Police probe Kittanning Cemetery scam
- Kittanning men’s club donates $1K to foundation for sick children
- Armstrong students put Thanksgiving feasts on the table
- Program energizes students at Manor elementary school
- Light-Up Night sparkles with special meaning in Ford City
- Football game DVD raising money for Armstrong school program
- Armstrong’s proposed budget increases spending, holds tax rate steady
- Model trains on display to help Ford City food bank
- Armstrong adds fee for assessment challenges