Police Issues Run Up Legal Fees in Ford City

Ford City Borough Council President Carol Fenyes (center) defended spending over $13,000 last month in legal costs – more than half of it for police department issues.

It was the end of May when Council broke silence about the abrupt resignation of the Ford City Police Chief Paul Hughes.

Hughes was gone as of April 29, leading to rumors and speculation.

Council Vice-President Tyson Klukan went out on a limb during the May 28, 2019 public work session to give his opinion about the borough’s police department.

“We have had three chiefs in three years,” Klukan admitted. “Yes, mistakes were made. If you say there isn’t a problem, you would be lying.”

Councilwoman Beth Bowser followed up at the June 10 public meeting and gave additional details.

“There were allegations of misconduct made against him by at least three outgoing officers,” she said. “Council did not know of the outcome of the allegations, if they were true or not, because of his immediate response to resign.”

According to Bowser, Council brought in a team of lawyers to provide special legal counsel. At the July 8 public meeting, the public was informed of the cost of legal representation. The Pittsburgh law firm of Campbell, Durrant, Beatty, Palombo, & Miller, which specializes in public sector, labor and employment law in Pennsylvania, charged the Borough $7,045.76 in an invoice dated June 7.

When former councilman Jerry Miklos questioned Council regarding the expense, Council President Carol Fenyes gave explanation.

“It is for personnel,” she told Miklos. “It has to do with the police chief and a grievance filed by a street worker.”

Fenyes confirmed that the current legal firm retained by the Borough in the position of Solicitor, Babst, Calland, Clements, and Zomnir, handled labor issues in the past.

“We were not satisfied with the representation,” Fenyes said, “so we sought other representation.”

According to financial records,  Babst, Calland, Clements, and Zomnir handled a variety of issues, including unidentified labor and employment representation in May, with total cost to the Borough of $6,409.70.

Ford City continues to have limited staff in its police department. In June, an impromptu hiring that would have moved part-time officer Chris Arthur to a full-time position resulted in Arthur turning down the offer. In July, Council voted to hire Jason Hufhand to the full-time position. There is no confirmation that Hufhand has accepted the offer yet.