Labor Disputes and Personnel Issues Lift Dormont Legal Fees

Article excerpt

Contract negotiations and disciplinary issues have led Dormont to exceed its annual budget for special legal services less than halfway through the year, and more legal bills could be on the way.

Borough Manager Gino Rizza said the total bill for special legal services -- including a labor lawyer, an arbitrator, a court reporter and a solicitor for the board hearing employee appeals -- was $37,912.94 as of June 30, well above the $30,000 the borough had budgeted for the entire year.

"About 50 percent of that has been for disciplinary matters," Rizza said. "Discipline is something you can't budget for. You can set a little aside ... but it's just like a snowstorm or all those windstorms we'd had."

Former police chief Phil Ross was demoted to sergeant in March after disciplinary hearings attended by Christopher Gabriel, a member of the Downtown-based law firm Campbell Durrant Beatty Palombo & Miller, which is representing the borough in labor disputes and contract negotiations.

Ross appealed his demotion to the three-member Civil Service Commission, which required the services of its solicitor, Michael Witherel of Ross-based Witherel and Associates, and a court reporter to record more than six hours of testimony at Ross' hearing.

Gabriel was called in to work on more disciplinary matters in June, reaching an agreement with the police union for the demotion of Sgt. James Burke to patrolman for issuing Rizza a trespassing citation in the borough building, and participating in another disciplinary hearing for Ross before council demoted him to patrolman July 5. …