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Often-suspended police chief resigns

| Saturday, Oct. 29, 2005

The feud between West Mifflin Council and embattled police Chief Frank Diener ended Friday night with an agreement resulting in Diener's immediate resignation.

Diener, 56, will receive a pension and medical benefits as set forth in the borough's police contract. He also will be paid for time off that he is owed, including a third of the 700 hours of compensatory time he accrued.

The police chief had been suspended without pay since July 7, when Mayor John Andzelik accused Diener of permitting officers to remain on duty, although they lacked proper firearms training.

Council President William Welsh said he doesn't know "off the top of my head" what Diener's pension and payments would be.

"I can't comment anymore than what's in the release (passed out at yesterday's meeting)," he said.

A letter circulated to council members indicates that Diener's pension will be about $42,000 a year. The letter also said Diener will be paid lump sums for 25 vacation days, four personal days and 147 sick days.

Other terms of the agreement were issued at the meeting:

  • The current three-month and 10-day suspensions have been resolved.

  • Diener cannot apply for borough employment in the future. He will receive a neutral reference from the borough for any future employment opportunities.

  • Public comments made regarding the matter must be approved by lawyers for both parties.

    A woman answering the phone at Diener's home hung up on a reporter yesterday.

    In the three-minute meeting conducted last night during rush hour -- and on the same night as West Mifflin Area High School's playoff game with Albert Gallatin -- council voted 4-0, with one abstention, to accept the agreement.

    Council members Richard Olasz and Regis Stephenson did not attend the meeting. Councilwoman Rhonda Popovich abstained; her husband, Joseph, is the acting police chief.

    Diener, 56, has been an officer with the department for 27 years, the last eight as chief. He had been making $80,000 annually.

    Diener's clashes with the borough's administration began in 2002, when Andzelik suspended the police chief in a conflict over officers' scheduling. Diener later was reinstated with back pay.

    Andzelik suspended Diener again in June 2004 -- this time for two days without pay, citing misuse of a borough vehicle. Diener challenged the suspension, and the borough's Civil Service Commission ruled that Diener should be paid for those days.

    In July this year, the mayor again suspended Diener without pay. He said the chief allowed officers to work without proper firearms training. Council later extended his suspension until the agreement last night.

    State police investigated Diener this summer after he was accused of using borough money to buy a gun and ammunition for personal use, but no charges have been filed. Diener has said the gun was bought for the borough.

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