Pa. union alleges 'witch hunt' after officer's firing

The union says Officer Duffy’s termination is “another example of the witch hunts that have been occurring against union officials and members within the Department.


Bob Kalinowski And Steve Mocarsky
The Citizens' Voice, Wilkes-Barre, Pa.

WILKES-BARRE — Officer Dan Duffy, vice president of the city police union that has been in a heated battle with department leadership and the mayor, was fired Wednesday.

Duffy, a former Scranton police chief who also served as director of the police academy at Lackawanna College, supposedly violated a city harassment policy in an email to city officials about a union matter, said city police Sgt. Phil Myers, president of the Wilkes-Barre Police Benevolent Association.

“He did nothing wrong — other than stand up for and support another union member,” Myers said. “This is retaliation for his role as union vice president. This is another example of union busting.”

The union provided a copy of the email, sent to Mayor Tony George and City Administrator Ted Wampole, which criticizes the alleged unprofessional and insulting treatment Commander Ron Foy displayed to a rank-and-file union member.

Duffy, who did not return a call seeking comment, claimed in the email that Foy wrongly admonished the officer without proper facts and it was part of a troubling pattern.

In the email, Duffy begged the mayor to take action against Foy, who he claims is “crushing any organizational spirit” at the behest of police Chief Marcella Lendacky, with whom the union has clashed since she was appointed in January 2016.

“By allowing Commander Foy to continue untouched, you are both turning your heads and failing to control or supervise him,” Duffy wrote. “… Eventually, it may be exposed publicly and will reflect on you directly.”

Duffy makes it clear several times he was speaking solely as a union leader, which he said entitles him to “equal footing” with management in such communications.

“Keep in mind, I submit this as the VP of the Union and NOT as Officer Duffy,” Duffy wrote. “Officer Duffy is a very subordinate and respectable worker. VP Duffy is educated, trained and experienced in every level of leadership in a law enforcement organization and is fully capable of forming an assessment and opinion on Commander Foy’s behavior, which is not consistent with the best practices in leadership.”

The union posted copies of the emails between Duffy and George on its Facebook page Wednesday night, commenting that Duffy’s termination is “another example of the witch hunts that have been occurring against union officials and members within the Department.”

“The Mayor, who purports to be a victim and also acted as the adjudicator, claims that he and City Administrator Ted Wampole were ‘harassed’ or ‘threatened’” in Duffy’s email, the Facebook post states.

“Today, the Mayor has shown that there are no boundaries when it comes to protected union activities and speech. The Mayor and the Chief have proven time and time again they want nothing more than to crush and silence the PBA,” the post claims.

Wampole confirmed an officer was fired, but said he could not comment further because it was a personnel matter.

Foy declined to comment on Wednesday night and efforts to reach Lendacky were not successful.

Kingston police Sgt. Sam Blaski, who serves as president of the Fraternal Order of Police Wyoming Valley Lodge 36, said the lodge is backing Duffy.

“The FOP recognizes that the city is trying to bust the union, and we will be backing Dan Duffy and all PBA members during this union busting that is taking place. We will stand behind VP Dan Duffy as he was supporting other PBA members during discipline,” Blaski said.

Blaski said the FOP “will not rest” until Duffy is reinstated “and the administration admits they were wrong,” adding that the local FOP will be consulting with the state organization “to help in recognizing the problems taking place within the city’s department.”

Duffy, known as an aggressive street cop, served as Scranton police chief until July 2012, when he resigned to take the job as director of the Act 120 police academy program at Lackawanna College. He was hired by Wilkes-Barre police in February 2014 and continued to work for the academy.

“He’s one of the most proactive police officers around,” Myers said. “The knowledge he brings to the table as former police chief and director of a police academy is invaluable. It’s something this administration should have embraced.”

Myers, who said he recently served a suspension related to union work, said he is fearful the administration will come after his job too.

“It’s definitely a concern. We are very fearful even now speaking out as a union,” Myers said.

The union also provided George’s response to Duffy’s email.

“First of all, I do not appreciate being threatened,” the mayor wrote, before going on to address his concerns about a special work detail an officer missed, which was the subject of Duffy’s complaint.

City council Chairwoman Beth Gilbert said the firing reinforces her belief an outside agency was needed to investigate the operations of the police department. At a meeting earlier this month, council members voted to hire the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association to assess the department. The union had made the initial request.

Gilbert reviewed Duffy’s email and didn’t think it was a threat to the mayor. She didn’t think Duffy should have been fired.

“I see no threat whatsoever and I think it is a blatant move by the administration to use whatever tactic they can to remove someone from the department who is sticking up for what is right,” Gilbert said. “It’s a sad day for the police department and the city that we have lost an officer like Duffy who exhibits nothing but professionalism in his daily role, both as VP of the PBA and as an officer.”

George said he could not discuss the issue of a police officer’s termination because it’s a personnel matter.

“As far as what Miss Gilbert said, she speaks without knowing all the facts,” George said. “She has no knowledge of the incident.”

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©2017 The Citizens' Voice (Wilkes-Barre, Pa.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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