City Council to vote on leadership issues

Amid police unrest, a vote is scheduled on making the county’s former D.A. interim public safety chief

By Kathleen Brady Shea, Managing Editor, The Times

Complaints about the city’s Police Department from within its ranks continue to increase, amid recent challenges that include strapped resources, multiple lawsuits, and evidence-tampering allegations, the latter under investigation by the state Attorney General’s Office.

Former Chester County District Attorney Joseph W. Carroll, who offered his interim services to City Council at its last meeting, is on the agenda for tomorrow’s special meeting.

Tomorrow night, City Council is holding a special meeting. The agenda includes a vote on whether to hire former Chester County District Attorney Joseph W. Carroll as interim chief of public safety. Carroll, a former Coatesville business owner, has been a longtime city advocate and offered to help officials save money and buy time during a search for new leadership. The city manager’s job is also vacant after the recent termination of Gary Rawlings.

Other agenda items include eliminating the city’s manager’s residency requirement, a move that would enable the city to promote acting City Manager Kirby Hudson. A vote on Hudson, who has been passed over several times for the post, is also scheduled.

Hudson did not return multiple telephone or email inquiries for comment on the unrest reportedly plaguing the Police Department.

During the past couple of weeks a handful of officers have separately contacted The Coatesville Times to voice concern about accusations contained in the most recent discrimination lawsuit, which was filed June 21 by Cpl. Larry Cooper. The officers, all of whom requested anonymity, said they feared retaliation, alleging that the department is presently controlled by officers who should have been terminated, not promoted.

In the suit, Cooper, one of five African-Americans on the force, claims that four officers implicated in a 2006 sex scandal – Lt. Chris McEvoy, Sgt. Brandon Harris, Sgt. Steven Smith and Lt. James Audette – escaped punishment. Although Cooper had more seniority, he watched all four receive promotions that he didn’t get, the suit said.

McEvoy has been on paid suspension since August in an unrelated case. According to court records, he had consensual sex with Officer Amy W. Nicholl, who is also on paid leave; McEvoy’s attorney, Joseph P. Green Jr., has said his client simply wants to get back to work.

The internal investigation in that case led to the Attorney General’s probe when Nicholl’s cellphone, which had been seized by Coatesville police, was returned to her with photos and data missing – incriminating material that highlighted the sexist climate of the department, said Nicholl’s attorney, Dolores M. Troiani.

Earlier this month, City Council designated Audette as officer-in-charge of the department after former Police Chief Julius M. Canale, accused of overseeing the botched cellphone investigation, took early retirement. Audette could not be reached for comment.

In the suit, Smith is accused of referring to “any conversation involving more than one African American officer as a ‘Brother’s convention.’” He did not return emails for comment.

The suit references a number of “racially offensive” Facebook postings attributed to Harris. In one, he allegedly asks: “I wonder if the Mexican who was stopped at a red flashing traffic light for approx. 10 min. and flagged me down and ask (sic) me what he should do has a drivers license?” Later in the conversation, he allegedly says he didn’t ask for it because he was too busy on Facebook.

“I wonder what cops did while they were board (sic) before computer, blackberrys, and facebook,” the suit quotes him as saying. In another alleged conversation, Harris complains about his work schedule: “I may have to hire some non-tax paying illegal short dirty do my yard work if I don’t get a day off soon!”

Contacted by email, Harris said he would respond but then did not.

Officers who contacted The Coatesville Times said they wanted to know what the city was doing to reverse the atmosphere created hy the alleged biases, especially now that they have been made public.

“These guys are supposed to be watching my back,” one officer said. “After reading those comments, I don’t feel confident that will happen.”

Cooper’s attorney, Brian R. Mildenberg, did not return phone calls seeking comment on the suit’s repercussions and whether Cooper’s past financial difficulties factored into promotion decisions. Court records show that Cooper  filed for bankruptcy twice, listing about $27,000 in assets and $24,000 in debt; however, the 2004 and 2005 cases were dismissed because he did not submit the necessary documentation. Court records also show a citation for writing bad checks, a charge that was withdrawn in January 2005.

In the meantime, the city’s legal costs continue to soar. Besides Cooper’s suit, four other minority officers – Carlo F. McKinnie, Miguel A. Ortiz, Jose Colon, and Sylvester D. Earle have accused the city of fostering discrimination, and Troiani said she is preparing a suit on behalf of Nicholl.

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  1. shannon says:

    I have been keeping up with many of these stories and reading several of the readers’ comments and it seems to me that the mention of the dirty half dozen or whatever they called themselves only ever names 5 people. Why is the 6th person not named? If he was a police officer and involved in this “alleged” rape, why is he being protected? I believe he is no longer with the department, but was informed that he is with another chester county department and he is named…BY NAME in the Cooper discrimination suit. Also, has anyone gotten a comment from his Chief about his alleged escape of justice.

    • KBS2012 says:

      You are correct. The suit mentions six people; one is a relative of one of the officers and the other is a police officer in a neighboring municipality. Both are mentioned in the lawsuit to explain the “Dirty Half-Dozen” reference; they have no bearing on the allegations, which is why they are not identified.

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