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NORTH HUNTINGDON (KDKA) – North Huntingdon police chief Andrew Lisiecki had an outstanding record: 25 years as a Pittsburgh police officer and unblemished reviews as chief with checkmarks next to exceptional and clearly outstanding.
But then, out of the blue, a political faction on the North Huntingdon Board of Commissioners suddenly fired him.
“Disbelief because I had no prior knowledge that it was going to happen,” recalled Lisiecki of that moment.
Lisiecki sued, and now — two years later — North Huntingdon has agreed to a $600,000 settlement with its former chief.
“Basically vindicates me,” Lisiecki told KDKA political editor Jon Delano on Thursday. “And it makes my point that I was doing nothing wrong at the time, that they didn’t have just cause to terminate my employment.”
“It’s an important case because it deals with the issue of when can a law enforcement administrator lose his or her job,” says Timothy O’Brien, Lisiecki’s attorney.
O’Brien says elected officials cannot just fire police chiefs for the heck of it.
“This lawsuit says you can’t lose that job unless there’s a reason, unless there’s a notice and opportunity to be heard,” adds O’Brien.
Generally speaking, municipalities cannot fire their police chiefs unless that have “just cause,” which means that mayors and commissioners and supervisors simply cannot get rid of a police chief for politics.
That violates state law.
While Lisiecki won’t be reinstated as police chief, besides the cash, he got this letter of recommendation for future employment, something he values since he says his unjust termination has made it tough to get a job.
Delano: “Do you think you can find employment now as a police chief in some other community?”
Lisiecki: “I’m hoping. I’m hoping so. When I see any openings, I’ll be applying, and I ‘m hoping they take a total look at me, look at my qualifications, and find out that I am more than competent to lead a police department.”