Ross fires officer charged with illegally using police computers |

Ross fires officer charged with illegally using police computers

Tony LaRussa

Ross commissioners Monday fired a township police officer charged with illegally using department computers to search internal files.

Following a nearly two-hour closed-door session during its Aug. 5 meeting, the board voted 5-4 to terminate Officer Mark Sullivan, 39, an eight-year veteran of the Ross police department.

Sullivan was charged by agents from the state Attorney General’s Office on July 22 with two felony counts of unlawful use of a computer. He was arrested July 23 and released on his own recognizance following arraignment.

He faces a Sept. 11 preliminary hearing before Hampton Township District Judge Tom Swan.

Commissioners Dan DeMarco, Jeremy Shaffer, Rick Avon, Grace Stanko and board President Steve Korbel voted to dismiss Sullivan from the force.

The four dissenting votes were cast by commissioners Joe Laslavic, Pat Mullin, Jason Pirring and Jack Betkowski.

“This has been an exceptionally difficult and challenging situation since we were presented with this information,” Shaffer said, adding that it “gives me no joy” to dismiss Sullivan.

Sullivan has been on paid administrative leave since the investigation was launched in January.

Ross’ employment policy does not require the board to take action against a police officer who is charged with a felony. But the state Confidence in Law Enforcement Act mandates an officer be suspended from duty if they are charged with a felony, and fired if they are convicted.

Korbel said the board did not want to wait until the outcome of the criminal proceedings before taking action but declined to elaborate.

About 60 people attended the meeting to show support for Sullivan, but none approached by the Tribune-Review would comment.

Several people who declined to give their names did, however, raise concerns the agenda did not contain a line item for a vote on Sullivan’s status with the police department. They said they learned from friends about a possible vote to fire the officer.

Several people questioned why they were not permitted to comment before the vote was taken.

Korbel said the commissioners did not place the item on the published agenda because the decision to take action was not made until after it convened into executive session following its regular meeting.

While Korbel did not call for public comment before the board voted, he said commissioners know the people who attended the meeting were there to show support for Sullivan.

“We know why they were there,” Korbel said. “Many of us (commissioners) were lobbied by members of the police department and retired officers.”

Ross police launched the probe that led to Sullivan’s arrest after they learned an employee accessed internal files without permission.

Police said they contacted outside law enforcement agencies to investigate after the breach was detected.

Sullivan’s attorney, Charles Porter, was not available Tuesday for comment.

Tony LaRussa is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tony at 724-772-6368, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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