Pennsylvania Fire Chief Accuses Police Chief and Council President of Conspiracy

A former Pennsylvania fire chief has filed a federal lawsuit accusing a borough, its former police chief and its former council president of conspiring to create false allegations against him and threatening bogus criminal charges in violation of his 1st, 2nd and 14th Amendment rights.

Fire Chief Daniel Smith filed suit against Upland Borough, former Upland Borough Police Chief Nelson Ocasio and former council president Ed Mitchell last month in US District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

The suit alleges that Mitchell and Ocasio improperly threatened Chief Smith with criminal charges, and retaliated against him over renovations to the Upland Borough Volunteer Fire Department’s station.

  • During the course of construction, Plaintiff became aware that the Borough Council President, Defendant Mitchell, was seeking to have the Fire Company pay a portion of the project above and beyond the amount it was legally required to because, inter alia, the contract was bid at prevailing wage rates and the Fire Company was not required to pay prevailing wage rates.
  • Plaintiff complained to councilpersons and others that the attempts by Mitchell to force the Fire Company to pay were unlawful and intended to cover for the failures of his third party employer.
  • Plaintiff complained that Defendant Mitchell was in violation of the ethics code and had a conflict of interest, which should have precluded him from involvement in the transaction.
  • In retaliation for Plaintiffs complaint that Mitchell had engaged in unlawful and unethical conduct with respect to the project, Mitchell surreptitiously issued a change order claiming it was issued by Plaintiff which resulted in the Fire Company paying more than $10,000 in project costs for which it was not responsible.
  • In further retaliation for Plaintiffs disclosure of Mitchell’s unethical and unlawful conduct, Mitchell began a public smear campaign against Plaintiff, falsely accusing Plaintiff of mismanagement of the fire company and of stealing public funds.
  • Mitchell conspired with Defendant Ocasio to harass plaintiff by instructing Borough police officers to target Plaintiff.
  • In further retaliation for Plaintiffs complaints, Defendant Mitchell ordered that Plaintiff be stripped of his Chiefs vehicle which had been assigned to him full-time since he became Chief.
  • In an effort to humiliate, embarrass and interfere with Plaintiffs employment defendants caused a letter restricting plaintiffs use of the fire company vehicle to be served personally by a Borough Police Officer and Detective on Plaintiff as his place of employment in Broomall outside the jurisdiction of Upland.
  • Defendant Ocasio confronted, threatened and coerced Plaintiff to resign by alleging that Plaintiff had violated gun laws by carrying a weapon Plaintiff was fully licensed to carry.
  • Defendant Ocasio used his position as police chief to interfere with Plaintiffs Second Amendment rights to threaten Plaintiff with criminal charges despite plaintiffs valid license to carry a weapon.

Here is a copy of the complaint: smith-v-mitchell

More on the story.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.
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