Thursday, August 23, 2012

City school police chief fired - Pittsburgh Post Gazette

More than 11 months after he was placed on paid administrative leave, Robert Fadzen, longtime safety chief of the Pittsburgh Public Schools, has been fired.

At its regular legislative meeting Wednesday, the school board voted 8-0, with Regina Holley abstaining, to terminate -- effective the same day -- the employment of Mr. Fadzen, who had run the school police since 1996.

Mr. Fadzen has been off the job since last September as a result of a controversy about his pulling over an ambulance on Route 65. Mr. Fadzen, who did not issue a citation, contended the driver had been driving erratically Downtown in a nonemergency situation.

The two ambulance staff members complained that Mr. Fadzen acted unprofessionally.

That led to a dismissal hearing that lasted nearly 80 hours over eight days and an 89-page findings of fact and conclusions of law released Wednesday. The hearing was open to the public at Mr. Fadzen's request.

Reached by telephone, Mr. Fadzen said, "I will tell you on the record that I'm obviously saddened by their decision. Disappointment is a better word. I want to thank the city of Pittsburgh for giving me the honor and privilege of protecting and serving its children for 17 years."

The board document said Mr. Fadzen had been given repeated warnings over a period of years that his jurisdiction by law was limited to inside school buildings, on school buses and on school grounds.

"Despite what might be perceived by Mr. Fadzen, the school safety department is not a municipal police force," the document stated.

It said Mr. Fadzen contended that a school board policy expanded his jurisdiction to permit him to enforce traffic laws within 1,000 yards of a school building.

He testified that the was parked by Pittsburgh CAPA 6-12 Downtown doing a traffic study when he observed the ambulance.

However, the document stated that only a court order can expand jurisdiction.

It noted that he was directed in 2000 by acting Superintendent Helen Faison that he and his staff were not to leave the district boundaries without authorization, was given a memo by then solicitor Stephanie Royal in 2002 staying it was unlikely he had 1,000-yard jurisdiction and was told by District Magistrate Nancy Longo in 2005 about his limitations in a traffic stop that resulted in a lawsuit in 2007. At that point, solicitor Ira Weiss reiterated the restrictions.

The document stated he was given a written reprimand in 2009 by Jody Spolar, currently district executive director of human resources, cautioning him that "should he utilize profanity or engage in other misconduct in the future, it could result in disciplinary action up to and including dismissal."

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