2010-11-18 / Local & State

Ex-Internal Affairs Head Suing Pa. State Police

By Joe Mandak ASSOCIATED PRESS

PITTSBURGH (AP) – The former head of state police internal affairs in western Pennsylvania claims he was fired, rehired and put on restricted duty in retaliation for investigating whether a barracks commander wrongly interceded in a friend’s child-molestation case.

Lt. Jeffrey Shaw contends state police brass persecuted him over relatively minor, and he says false, allegations that he received the complaint against the commander through improper channels. His lawsuit also argues that his bosses turned a blind eye to the commander’s alleged misconduct.

The commander approached a trooper investigating the molestation allegations repeatedly to ask “how things were looking for ‘our boy’’’ and told the trooper that if his businessman friend were arrested, the commander would “lose his golf privileges,’’ the lawsuit said. According to the lawsuit, the commander “received free golfing privileges at a luxury golf facility owned by’’ the businessman friend.

The businessman’s daughter also allegedly paid for an $8,000 hunting trip for the commander in September 2008, when the molestation investigation was ongoing, according to the lawsuit. The commander also was friends with her husband, the businessman’s son-in-law, the lawsuit alleges.

Spokeswoman Lt. Myra Taylor said state police defendants can’t comment on the lawsuit.

The serpentine, 29-page lawsuit was filed Tuesday in Allegheny County and was first reported by the Herald- Standard in Uniontown. Shaw had headed the western Internal Affairs Division office, located in Harmar Township, in 2008, when the chain of events began.

The lawsuit refers to the commander Shaw investigated as “Lt. X’’ and the businessman as “John Doe,’’ to protect the identify of the minor daughter he allegedly molested. The businessman was never charged.

According to the lawsuit, Shaw didn’t learn of the allegations against the lieutenant, the since-retired commander of the Uniontown barracks, and his businessman friend directly. And it’s because of that Shaw contends he was subsequently disciplined.

Fayette County Children and Youth Services called the Uniontown barracks in August 2008 to report the alleged molestation.

The trooper assigned to the case was transferred to the Belle Vernon barracks that fall but continued to investigate it. After being subjected to the commander’s comments, the trooper told his new station commander, Lt. Richard Gardner, that he was “bothered’’ by the remarks, according to the lawsuit.

Gardner had also heard about the $8,000 hunting trip and referred both concerns to a captain who failed to take any action against the Uniontown lieutenant, the lawsuit contends.

Gardner then shared his concerns with Sgt. Cheryl Amodei-Mascara, who sued the state police earlier this year for what she contends was an attempt to smear her reputation by suggesting she illegally interfered in the molestation investigation.

Shaw’s lawsuit recaps Sgt. Amodei-Mascara’s claims that she told her mother about the Uniontown commander’s actions and that her mother called Shaw anonymously in December 2008, setting in motion Shaw’s investigation. It would have violated state police regulations for the sergeant to have made an anonymous complaint against the lieutenant.

That’s when two top internal affairs officials – Major Charles Skurkis, commander of the state police Bureau of Integrity and Professional Standards, and Capt. Willard Oliphant, head of the bureau’s Internal Affairs Division – ordered an investigation into Amodei- Mascara. The findings of that probe were referred to Westmoreland County District Attorney John Peck, who declined to prosecute Amodei- Mascara or Shaw for allegedly interfering in the criminal molestation investigation.

Peck, in a letter to state police, said he determined that the Uniontown lieutenant “did receive a trip paid for by the daughter of a high profile person under investigation’’ and “did make remarks to an investigator that could be construed as inappropriate.’’ Peck also determined some state police did receive golfing privileges from the businessman.

Peck declined to comment on Shaw’s lawsuit, except to confirm for The Associated Press that his investigative findings were accurately recounted in it.

Shaw contends he was on restricted duty for much of 2009 and removed as IAD chief in western Pennsylvania. He was fired on May 26, 2010, but rehired and put back on restricted duty on June 9, before the grievance he filed over the firing could be heard.

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