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Former Springdale police chief sues over firing

Brian C. Rittmeyer
| Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2016, 5:30 p.m.
Former Springdale police Chief Julio Medeiros III on Tuesday, April 28, 2015.
Erica Dietz | Trib Total Media
Former Springdale police Chief Julio Medeiros III on Tuesday, April 28, 2015.

Springdale's former police chief is suing the borough over his firing last year.

In the 31-page, 12-count complaint filed in federal court Friday, Julio Medeiros III makes claims including breach of contract, retaliation and discrimination. He also charges that his rights under the Constitution and the state's whistleblower law were violated.

Although no dollar amount is specified, Medeiros is seeking monetary damages that include past and future wages and benefits, compensatory damages, interest, penalties and attorney fees and costs.

Springdale hired Medeiros in October 2013. He was brought in to reform the police department but was met with resistance, his attorney, Christian Bagin, said Tuesday.

Medeiros was fired in November for alleged misuse of paid time off and failure to comply with council's instructions to return to work from a medical leave.

While Medeiros at one time wanted to get his job back, he no longer wants that, Bagin said.

“He needs to be compensated,” Bagin said. “He needs his name restored.”

Borough Solicitor Craig Alexander said attorney Scott Dunlop was appointed by an insurance carrier to represent the borough in any federal claims by Medeiros.

Dunlop could not be reached for comment.

The complaint claims Medeiros faced a campaign of harassment, threats and interference that began almost immediately after his arrival, including derogatory comments against Medeiros and his family based on their race or ethnicity, and instruction that Medeiros carry out his duties based on race.

The suit claims Medeiros was subjected to a hostile work environment created primarily by former Councilmen Gene Polsinelli and John Molnar. Molnar and Polsinelli said they had not seen the complaint and could not or would not comment on it.

The complaint states Medeiros wanted to terminate Officer Derek Dayoub based on insubordinate and unbecoming conduct, but the borough refused. Dayoub, the department's current acting chief, said none of the accusations against him has been substantiated.

As a result of an abusive work environment, the complaint says, Medeiros suffered psychological and physical harm, including panic attacks, rapid and irregular heartbeat and sudden weight loss and gain that affected his ability to concentrate, sleep, eat and engage in “vigorous physical activity.”

It was so severe that, in July 2015, Medeiros filed a workers' compensation claim against Springdale and his doctor ordered that Medeiros be hospitalized or take an extended sick leave from work. He went on medical leave.

The suit claims borough officials retaliated against Medeiros for exercising his protected rights in filing the claim and, later, federal and state discrimination complaints.

The complaint claims that, in August 2015, Molnar and Polsinelli stated their intention to fire Medeiros but were concerned the borough would have to pay Medeiros severance because they had no “good cause” to do so.

Council eventually suspended Medeiros over allegations of possible misappropriation of time or work hours and approved hiring an investigator “to try to concoct a reason” to fire him, the suit claims.

While the borough claims it had cause to fire Medeiros, an unemployment compensation referee concluded he “did not engage in any willful misconduct,” and was therefore terminated “without cause,” the complaint states.

The borough did not appeal the decision. In April, in accordance with his contract, Medeiros demanded $78,000 — one year's pay — as severance for dismissal without cause. The borough did not respond to the demand.

The suit says the borough in December refused to pay Medeiros nearly $4,000 for earned, unused vacation pay as part of his final pay. Medeiros continued to see his doctors, and told the borough they had released him to return to work on Jan. 12. The borough did not recall him.

Brian C. Rittmeyer is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-226-4701 or at brittmeyer@tribweb.com.

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