After a five-year dispute, Borough Council ends its legal battle with former Borough Police Chief
By P.J. D’Annunzio, Staff Writer, KennettTimes.com
KENNETT SQUARE — An old wound left open for nearly five years has finally been closed in in the borough.
During the summer of 2007, then-Borough Police Chief Albert McCarthy — who now serves as Police Chief in neighboring Kennett Township — submitted to the Borough his written intention to retire, requisite upon five conditions, which if agreed upon by all parties would trigger that retirement.
“The borough rejected the proposal which included paying Albert for vacation time, personal days to which he was entitled under contract, holidays, and compensation time.” Attorney Justin McCarthy, Albert McCarthy’s brother and legal representative said. “The plan was for approximately $82,000. The Borough, upon receiving this conditional retirement proposal, said they were going to pay him $16,000 of the money he was owed.”
After the Borough’s response, McCarthy — then 55 — opted to stay on the force in order to collect the benefits in question.
“He then notified the borough that he was not going to retire, but that he would remain Chief of Police,” Justin McCarthy said. “He was appointed under the civil service laws, so he could not be removed without cause. Responding to that, the former Borough Council met and convened a meeting at which they voted to suspend him without and factual evidence or legal authority…they never served him with written charges, never gave him a chance to respond to the charges, never gave him an opportunity for a hearing to rebut the charges.”
“In effect, though they voted to suspend him, and publicly humiliated him, and they never actually suspended him; they simply took his job duties away from him and told him to go home…that left him stigmatized,” Justin McCarthy continued. “The front pages of newspapers in the county stated that he was suspended, when in fact he wasn’t at all. So we sued the Borough and its council for having violated the Civil Service Act and also for interfering with his respective contractual rights.”
Upon the closure of this recent settlement, Chief McCarthy was awarded $150,000 in damages and an additional $200,000 constituting back pay and pension by the borough.
Also per McCarthy’s agreement stuck with the Borough, a prepared statement was read to the public in attendance at Monday night’s Borough Council meeting”
“Chief McCarthy’s service record is unblemished and he has never acted in a manner that would suggest otherwise,” Borough Councilman Leon Spencer said, delivering the statement. “He has been a dedicated public servant. Kennett Square wishes Chief McCarthy all the best and thanks him for his years of hard work and commendable service.”
Though the agreement ended favorably for McCarthy, Borough Solicitor Marc Jonas stated that the settlement is not an admission of fault from the borough.
“Settlements always make sense for both parties: trials can go on for weeks; appeals can go on for years. Courts encourage settlements, and as lawyers, we look for settlements in appropriate circumstances based upon acceptable conditions,” he said. “The agreement states that there is no fault admitted on the part of either party. Litigation takes time, it costs money, and it eats into the fabric of what the community really wants: to move forward and make progress. Litigation relates to things in the past…settlements are to resolve disputes and controversies in the past and to move forward in a constructive manner.”
The Chief expressed both regret about the contentious relationship that the lawsuit fostered between the previous Borough Council and himself and also his relief that the entire affair is now behind him.
“I never wanted it to come to this. I think the past council has put the community in a bad position,” he said. “In one sense I’m glad it’s over, in the other sense I wish it never came to this. I put a lot of time into the community, did a lot of things other than be the Chief of Police. I built offices for Borough employees, I built the Police Station, I plowed snow; I did everything you could think of, and then they turn around on me when I want to leave — it was unbelievable.”
Now that the dust has settled, both parties are eager to move on, and Chief McCarthy’s slate is to be wiped clean.
“The court will expunge every reference of suspension from Chief McCarthy’s record…it restores his good name. As you heard in the statement, they talked about his exemplary character, and the manner in which he performed his duties for 34 years. So this act is basically redemptive, and in a certain way, restores his reputation,” Justin McCarthy said.
“The unfortunate thing is once a bell is rung, you can’t unring it,” he continued. “All the people that heard the beginning of the story, who will not hear the end of the story won’t know. That’s the regrettable part of this.”
McCarthy previously made headlines after being involved in an accident last October while driving a Kennett Township police cruiser and allegedly leaving the scene of the incident. He reportedly suffered some sort of seizure and was unaware he had been in an accident. He is currently on restricted duty with the township and unable to drive. Police from Parkesburg are currently patrolling the township.
In 2001, while serving as chief of the Kennett Square Police Department, McCarthy left an unloaded gun in a bathroom at Mary D. Lang Elementary School.