Dormont council restores police officer's rank

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Dormont has reinstated a demoted police officer to his previous rank.

James Burke resumed his duties as sergeant Tuesday, the day after borough council voted to return him to the rank he has held since 2000. Council also approved a settlement with Sgt. Burke that included dismissal of a lawsuit he had filed against the municipality.

"This just goes to show that if you do things right, eventually you'll get through any hard time," the 25-year veteran of the police force said after the council meeting. "It's very difficult to have what happened happen for doing my job."

Sgt. Burke was demoted to patrolman in June 2011, following a disagreement with former borough manager Gino Rizza. In December, Sgt. Burke filed suit against the borough, seeking $1 million in damages.

According to court documents, in July 2010, Mr. Rizza told the police officer to go to a residence and order a plumbing company to stop work there. Two weeks later, the manager ordered Sgt. Burke to change the report, but he refused.

Sgt. Burke later cited Mr. Rizza for trespassing after the manager used the police-only entrance to the department's offices.

Council's vote was unanimous, with one abstention: Jeffrey Fabus, Sgt. Burke's brother-in-law.

"I do want to say for the record that it never should have happened, Jim, and I do apologize," councilwoman Joan Hodson told Sgt. Burke during the vote, drawing a round of applause from the audience.

Also on Monday:

• Council approved the borough's annual meter and business parking permit holiday, suspending meter enforcement from Dec. 18 through Jan. 1. Bags will be placed on meters in municipal parking lots only. Those on streets will remain uncovered.

That arrangement came at the suggestion of Mr. Fabus following a discussion about the temporary free parking the borough has offered every holiday season for nearly 20 years to encourage shopping in the business district.

"There are any number of merchants who are not happy about that because people come and park in those spots all day, and fill those spaces and make it very difficult," said Alan Scheimer, owner of Dormont Appliance Center on West Liberty Avenue.

In previous years, the borough put no bags on meters.

"It was a matter of just not sending anybody out to write a ticket," said borough Manager Jeffrey Naftal. "So you could, if you wanted to, go back to that old method of doing things, which is nobody would really know that there was no charge for the meters unless they were customers of the business, who would tell them."

Mr. Fabus made his proposal as a compromise. Council members Onnie Costanzo and Valerie Martino voted against the measure.

• Council also voted to eliminate its monthly agenda meetings, which are held Mondays before regular meetings, as of Dec. 31.

Residents will continue to have ample time during meetings to address items on the agenda, said Bill McCartney, council president.

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Harry Funk, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com


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