A former Slippery Rock Borough police chief sued three of that municipality's officials today, claiming that he was fired when he refused to back a merger with Slippery Rock Township.
Terry Brown, who lives in the township, worked as an officer with the borough for 24 years, ending with about a year and a half as chief, according to the complaint attorney Alexander H. Lindsay Jr. filed.
In 2009 and 2010, borough council members touted a possible merger with the township, according to the complaint.
Township officials were generally against it, according to the complaint.
The township paid the borough for cross-border police help, according to the complaint. Some borough officials wanted to withhold that aid unless a merger was finalized.
According to the complaint, Mr. Brown refused to take a public position on the merger and opposed talk of slowing down borough police response to calls in the township.
"Under the Pennsylvania Borough Code, there's only certain grounds that you can be terminated for," Mr. Lindsay said. "And one of those grounds is if you engage in political activity. These certain borough officials, it was their desire that he in effect go out and politic for this merger, and he declined. And he also was not favorable to using police as a lever" in the merger discussion.
In late 2010, the borough council fired Mr. Brown, ostensibly for briefly stepping into an off-limits area of a firing range, the complaint said.
The complaint said that the firing violated Mr. Brown's free speech rights.
"It interferes with his right to political expression, or in this case refusal to engage in expression," Mr. Lindsay said.
Borough solicitor Neva Stanger could not be reached for comment. She and borough council members Blase Tucci and David Miller are the named defendants in the lawsuit.
Rich Lord: email@example.com, 412-263-1542 and on Twitter: @richelord.