Judge Orders Nanticoke Police Chief To Be Removed
NANTICOKE — A Luzerne County judge on Friday ordered the city police chief removed from office, finding his hiring nearly two years ago was illegal.
Chief Thomas Wall, a retired state trooper, will be relieved of his post Oct. 1 if the city does not appeal the ruling by Judge William H. Amesbury, who also ordered Mayor Richard Wiaterowski to legally appoint a new chief.
Reached Friday, Wiaterowski said the city plans to appeal. Wall echoed that sentiment, describing the ruling as a “minor setback.”
“Just as sure as the nose on your face, we are ready to appeal,” Wall said. “We were waiting for this. We kind of knew how it was going to go, and now we’ll appeal it.”
Wiaterowski appointed Wall, a Nanticoke resident, as chief in September 2016, citing his 25 years of experience with the state police, his proven leadership ability and record of community service.
But the City of Nanticoke Police Officers Association soon filed suit against the city, arguing an internal candidate was improperly passed over to fill a vacancy created by former Chief William Shultz’s death.
The complaint also alleged Wall had conflicts of interest because he was a member of the city’s police civil service commission and he is married to Nanticoke interim city Manager Donna Wall.
In his ruling Friday, Amesbury found Wiaterowski and the city appointed Wall as police chief without seeking applications or interviewing anyone within the police department, although Lt. Michael Roke had expressed interest in the job.
While state law requires a police chief to be hired “from within the ranks,” the city maintained expanded powers granted by its home-rule charter supported an outsider being appointed chief.
However, Amesbury sided with the union and agreed state law prohibits the city from making such a change to regulations that affect employee rights.
His order directs Wiaterowski to appoint a police chief “from within the ranks” and removes Wall as chief effective Oct. 1, unless the city files its appeal.
Union President Brian Kivler did not immediately return a message seeking comment.
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