Court overturns ruling on suspended prison officers

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The Commonwealth Court today reversed an arbitrator's decision that would have returned to work at the State Correctional Institution Pittsburgh seven officers who were suspended after inmates alleged rampant abuses on the prison's F Block.

The court found that corrections officers Harry Nicoletti, Kevin Friess, Tory Kelly, Jerome Lynch, Brian Olinger, Sean Storey, Kevin Johnson and John Michaels did not file grievances within 15 working days of their suspensions, as required by their union's contract with the Department of Corrections. Mr. Nicoletti, it said, filed 28 working days after getting a written notice of his suspension, and the others filed 87 days after they got notice.

Arbitrator Ronald F. Talarico had ruled a year ago that their indefinite suspensions violated the contract, and that the violations were ongoing, so time limits did not apply. The department appealed, though, and the court found that there was no language in the contract to back Mr. Talarico's interpretation.

Mr. Nicoletti, Mr. Kelly, Mr. Lynch and fellow suspended corrections officer Bruce Lowther have pleaded not guilty to charges stemming from inmate allegations of systematic abuse of sex offenders held on F Block. They face trials late this year and early next year.

Mr. Friess, Mr. Olinger and Mr. Storey were charged, but all charges were dropped or thrown out. The department has not returned them to work. Mr. Michaels, a former sergeant, was never charged, but was fired. Mr. Johnson was suspended, but later returned to work after being demoted from sergeant to officer.

breaking - region

Rich Lord: rlord@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1542


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