Beaver Falls seeks to overturn ruling that reinstated fired cop
By: Bill Vidonic
Beaver County Times
Saturday December 5, 2009 10:45 PM
BEAVER FALLS Beaver Falls police officer Patsy Perretta was sitting on a barstool at Sims Bowling Alley in Big Beaver on Oct. 29, 2008, complaining to a friend about ongoing family problems.
“As much as I’m being listened to, I could sit here butt-naked on this barstool and nobody would even notice I did it,” Perretta told his friend, according to court documents.
Perretta then did just that, pulling off his clothing and sitting naked at the bar for a few minutes. But someone apparently did notice, and took a cell phone picture that made its way to the police department.
Now, Perretta’s fate with the police department is in the hands of Beaver County Court. The city fired Perretta shortly after the incident, but an arbitrator vacated that ruling in August and said Perretta should be suspended without pay for a year. The city is asking a judge to throw out the arbitrator’s ruling.
Perretta remains off duty as the appeal continues in court.
At the time of the incident and the subsequent disciplinary actions, Beaver Falls police, city officials and Sims owner David Fischer refused to release any information.
But in a recent court filing, all the details of the incident were laid out in a report issued Aug. 13 by arbitrator Matthew M. Franckiewicz.
In it, Franckiewicz wrote that Perretta was separated from his wife at the time of the incident and was struggling with custody issues, paying about $2,000 a month in child and spousal support.
Perretta also had undergone surgery in July for a herniated disc, and was taking medication for depression.
At the bowling alley, Franckiewicz wrote, as Perretta made the comment about sitting naked on a barstool, an off-duty waitress dared him to do so. Though the friend advised him not to, Perretta did it anyway.
After a couple of minutes, Perretta obeyed Fischer’s order to dress. Perretta admitted that even though he was probably drunk, he then drove home, Franckiewicz said.
Perretta didn’t know that at least two people took cell phone pictures of him. On Oct. 31, several people approached police working a high school football game and told them about the Sims incident, and one also showed police a cell phone picture.
Police Chief Charles Jones got a copy of the cell phone picture, and Perretta “admitted what he had done and attributed it to stress over his marital situation, economic problems in connection with (support payments), and fear of not being able to work. He asked for mercy.” He also began receiving treatment from a psychiatrist.
Jones suspended Perretta on Nov. 3, and Perretta was then charged by the city with these violations of the police department’s rules of conduct: breaching the department’s code of ethics, including engaging in conduct unbecoming a police employee, and violating state law against open lewdness. Perretta was never charged with any criminal offenses related to the incident.
Council fired Perretta shortly after that, though the date of the firing was not available.
The city said that Perretta’s actions “brought disrespect on the city and undermined the (police) department’s effectiveness,” Franckiewicz wrote.
The police union’s position, according to Franckiewicz, was that Perretta was under enormous stress because of personal problems, and that “human beings make mistakes but that an officer should not be discharged for a mistake unlikely to be repeated and not intended to demean the department.”
Franckiewicz, in his ruling, noted that the incident did not occur when Perretta was on duty, though it still was a personal embarrassment.
“Perretta’s disrobing in public brought disgrace upon himself, and by association brought disgrace upon his city and his profession. At the very least, his behavior constituted an embarrassment and a distraction to his fellow officers,” Franckiewicz wrote.
The arbitrator continued, “Officer Perretta, while in a pool of self-pity and alcohol, acted foolishly. He did not, however, behave dishonestly or violently, nor in abuse of his office.
“Perretta clearly acknowledges that by his behavior at the bowling alley he disgraced both himself and his uniform. I believe that officer Perretta will never again make a spectacle of himself, and I am confident that there will be no repetition of the event of Oct. 29,” Franckiewicz added.
Perretta could not be reached for comment Friday.