Former Mt. Pleasant police chief sues borough over firing
Mt. Pleasant’s former police chief filed a federal lawsuit this week claiming that he was fired after defying instructions from officials to ignore what he described as “wrongdoing” on the borough’s part.
Douglas Sam, 52, of Mt. Pleasant Township, made several claims in the suit against the borough, including that he was asked to withdraw drunken-driving charges against someone he arrested and chastised for turning a theft investigation involving a council member over to state police.
“… Sam’s continued employment as police chief was conditioned on the state of his personal relationship with members of the Mt. Pleasant government,” the suit states. “Sam’s personal relationships with these individuals, however, appeared to be tied to their need for Sam to ignore waste and wrongdoing by Mt. Pleasant.”
Sam is seeking back pay and other compensation.
Borough manager Jeff Landy did not respond Wednesday to requests for comment. Solicitor Deanna Istik declined to comment, saying she had not seen the lawsuit. The lawsuit, entered Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh, is available online.
Council voted 6-3 to fire Sam in February after four years on the job. Officials at the time did not offer any public explanation as to the reason for his firing.
Sam was hired as chief in March 2015 after a months-long search and a review of dozens of candidates, the Tribune-Review reported. He previously worked with the Trafford police force.
Sam’s lawsuit outlined several instances which he said constituted “wrongdoing” on the part of borough officials:
• Council members criticized him for turning over to state police an investigation about the improper deposit of two checks from the borough into a council member’s bank account.
• Council members refused to press charges in two instances of purported theft from the borough.
• Officials ordered him to backdate a traffic study request to make it appear the borough was in compliance with state and federal regulations.
• Two borough officials called Sam during a drunken-driving traffic stop in August 2018 after the target of the stop made phone calls. The lawsuit said that the officials asked him to “reconsider what he was doing” and “questioning if Sam was doing the right thing.”
That person was charged with driving under the influence, and Sam refused to withdraw the charges at the request of a “certain Mt. Pleasant official,” according to the suit. In the months following, Sam and the borough began negotiating an employment contract and officials asked him not to attend a hearing in the drunken-driving case, which he refused.
The lawsuit states that council gave Sam no notice that they intended to discuss his employment during its Feb. 4 meeting and he wasn’t provided a hearing on the matter. He claims the board violated his rights and the Pennsylvania Borough Code.
Renatta Signorini is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Renatta at 724-837-5374, [email protected] or via Twitter .