Councilman-Elect Pascal Criticizes Leechburg’s Decisions

Chuck Pascal (courtesy of Facebook)

LEECHBURG – Chuck Pascal isn’t wasting any time in public discussing Personnel matters prior to his taking office as a Leechburg Councilman.

Pascal served 16 years on the Leechburg School Board, and four years as Mayor. He has been away from public office for the past eight years, but continued to be active in county and state politics as an avid Democrat. Last month, he was elected as a Leechburg Councilman and will take his seat in January.

Pascal took to his Facebook page to denounce Leechburg government officials in keeping Leechburg Police Chief Mike Diebold from resuming his duties. Diebold was involved in a fireworks accident  at the Leechburg Carnival on June 24, losing his left arm. He has been fitted with a customized prosthetic arm that has enabled him to resume all functions previously required of a police chief.

Pascal, on Facebook, gave details in what he termed a “Leechburg absurdity.”

“Diebold was cleared to go back to full duty work by his doctor. Diebold met the criteria to qualify on the shooting range.

“MPOETC (Municipal Police Officers’ Education and Training Commission) sent a letter to the mayor in October asking him to keep them in the loop on Diebold’s status. The mayor did not communicate in any way with MPOETC until after December 11. To my knowledge, MPOETC has placed no impediment to Diebold returning to work.

“Diebold was on the written schedule to be on duty starting December 11. On December 6 or 7, the mayor told Diebold by phone not to report to work on  December 11. Diebold says the mayor told him he would be on unpaid leave. The mayor told the media this was not true. As a result of this discrepancy, Diebold doesn’t know whether he is on a paid or unpaid status. Council members I’ve spoken to don’t know either.

“Neither the mayor, and no one else representing the borough, has provided any written document to Diebold documenting his status, the requirements to return to work, or anything that would inform him of the reason for the personnel decisions being made. (In all of my years as an elected official and an attorney I have never seen a personnel decision by a government not be communicated in writing.)

“The placing of a full time employee on a schedule, and then removing them, is the functional equivalent of a suspension under the borough code. While the mayor has the authority to suspend a police officer (for cause and in writing), council must act within 10 days to affirm, rescind, or continue the suspension.

“While the borough supposedly is receiving advice from an outside law firm, it is confusing to me as an attorney that none of these personnel actions are being done in writing. Any attorney would advise written communication in this type of situation.

“If there is a reason other than physical ability for these personnel decisions, the borough likewise has an obligation under the borough code and the police contract to communicate this to Diebold in writing.

“I am not pre-judging any of what is going on (based) on the merits, mainly because the communication with the public has been worse than the communication with the employee. Bizarre, vague, conflicting and meaningless statements do not foster confidence or understanding. However, if there truly is a legitimate reason for this, fine–do your job, find a crayon, and put it in writing to the employee involved. While I can’t opine on the merits, I am questioning the judgment of communicating personnel actions with employees verbally. I am questioning the judgment of placing someone on a schedule and then taking them off with no articulated reason. I am questioning the judgment of stumbling awkwardly into potentially placing the borough in a position of unnecessary liability. I am questioning the judgment of creating confusion and uncertainty with the status of an employee. I am questioning the judgment of creating a PR nightmare and then saying conflicting things to the media, making it worse. I am questioning the judgment of constructively communicating personnel actions in the media, not with the employee.

“I am questioning the judgment of not informing council, step by step, of what these decisions are and why. And I do not believe in treating an employee–ANY EMPLOYEE, not just Diebold–in this fashion. I have truly never seen an employment action by a government entity being done in this way. It’s a disgrace. It’s incompetent. And we deserve better.”

Pascal is an attorney practicing in Armstrong County and considered one of the foremost authorities on election and municipal law.

In an ironic turn of events, Armstrong County District Attorney Scott Andreassi announced Monday that Diebold has returned to the active roster of the Armstrong Narcotics Enforcement Team effective December 11, 2017.

Andreassi stated in a news release: “Our office has been provided with documentation showing that Mike has been medically cleared to work. In addition, he has been re-certified in firearms and has an active MPOETC number, all of which are required for his return to work with the DA’s office and with ARMNET.”

Leechburg Council met last night in a special session but refused to publicly discuss Diebold’s employment status. Approximately a dozen persons showed up in support of Diebold.