Sept. 08--A borough council in Northampton County voted unanimously this week to fire a police officer who also works as a police chief in Luzerne County.
Nazareth council fired Fred Lahovski from his position as patrolman, according to news reports. Lahovski is the police chief in Forty Fort and he remains in that position.
Nazareth officials offered no explanation for their decision.
Reached by phone, Nazareth Borough Secretary Paul Kokolus would not comment on the situation. Nazareth borough council president Dan Chiavaroli would not comment, saying the issue was a personnel matter. Nazareth Mayor Fred Daugherty decided to comment in an email message.
"As always is the policy of Nazareth Borough we do not discuss personnel issues in a public forum. There has been a great deal of speculation and conjecture on this subject and at this time it is in our best interest to refrain from comment," Daugherty wrote.
Lahovski said he is contesting the firing through the American Arbitration Association, a nonprofit organization that can be used as an alternative to regular courts.
"You hold court in the appropriate place, not in a borough council meeting, not in the newspaper, you hold it in a court of law that specializes in labor issues, which is exactly what this is, and this will get meted out in a neutral forum," Lahovski said.
Lahovski was the president of the police union in Nazareth, a position that sometimes brought him into contention with the borough.
"I have a job to do as a union advocate in that realm. I did it as passionately as I felt it needed to be done," he said. "Unfortunately anytime in an adversarial environment there can be collateral things that happen that are sometimes not pleasant."
The Nazareth police chief demoted Lahovski from detective to patrolman in March at the recommendation of the borough's mayor, according to news reports. In May, Lahovski received two disciplinary notices for earlier incidents and was suspended. Nazareth's police union filed a complaint against the borough, alleging that the demotion and suspension were unfair labor practices. The Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board will hear the complaint later this year.
Lahovski's position in Forty Fort has not been without contention. Officer Peter Lakkis filed a lawsuit against Lahovski and council president Joe Chacke in May, claiming that his free speech rights were violated because he had to get written permission to speak with the borough's mayor or council. Lakkis said that after he asked to speak with the mayor, he was assigned to work outside his normal police duties. That litigation is still pending.
Andy Tuzinski, the emergency management coordinator in Forty Fort, said he's been happy working with Lahovski. Mayor Boyd Hoats and council President Joe Chacke could not be reached for comment.
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Copyright 2012 - The Citizens' Voice, Wilkes-Barre, Pa.