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North Hills

Ex-McCandless councilman accused of intervening in probe of 2 suspended cops

Tony LaRussa
| Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018, 5:27 p.m.

The McCandless police union has accused a former town official of trying to stack the deck in favor of a pair of suspended police officers by asking cops from surrounding communities to attend Monday’s council meeting when officials could take disciplinary action.

In a Dec. 4 letter from the McCandless Police Officer’s Association to town officials detailing a “no confidence” vote its members took against Chief David DiSanti, the union says it is “highly relevant to the issue at hand” that the former town official “has attempted to influence the course of this investigation.”

The letter does not name the official, but the references point to former councilman Ralph LaDonne, who served on council for 12 years before losing his seat as the Ward 6 representative last year. LeDonne was elected to council when he retired after serving 10 years as the McCandless police chief.

The letter states that the plea for officers to attend Monday’s council meeting “as a group” was made during a Dec. 4 gathering of the North Hills Boroughs and Townships Police Officer’s Association.

LeDonne allegedly told the officers at the meeting that “DiSanti and Lt. Jeffery Basl were over zealously placed on administrative leave without a formal reading of the charges against them,” according a copy of the letter obtained by the Tribune-Review.

In its letter to town officials, the union says the comments made by LeDonne “indicate that he has been privy to information that, as a now private citizen, he should not possess.

“It is our concern that this individual has attempted to influence the course of this investigation and intends to continue to do as such at the upcoming council meeting.”

The letter also accuses LeDonne of urging the officers present at the Association meeting to “contact members who were not present, as well as member’s wives, and indeed, anyone else the members may know, to attend (Monday’s) council meeting to influence the decision of council.”

The union said the alleged intervention by LeDonne was among the reasons it sent the letter to council informing them of the no confidence vote cast by 24 of the town’s 26 police officers.

LeDonned did not respond to several telephone messages seeking comment.

Town officials announced Oct. 29 that two officers were placed on paid administration leave pending investigation of a “personnel matter” but have not identified the officers or released details about the nature of the allegations made against DiSanti and Basl.

Council President Kim Zachary said the investigation was completed on Nov. 21 and that council members have conducted several closed-door meetings in the past two weeks to discuss the findings.

She said she did not know whether the addition of the letter from the union would result in council delaying release of information or taking action.

“We’re planning to meet in executive session before the meeting (on Monday) to discuss the letter,” she said. “We won’t know (if there will be a delay) until after council gets together to talk about it.”

Council’s business meeting is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 10.

Tony LaRussa is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tony at 724-772-6368 or tlarussa@tribweb.com or via Twitter @TonyLaRussaTrib.

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