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Fired West York police officer ordered reinstated with back pay

Liz Evans Scolforo
717-505-5429/@LizScolforoYD

A West York police officer fired in June 2013 amid allegations she illegally recorded phone calls from her former girlfriend has been ordered reinstated and awarded nearly five years worth of back pay, according to a decision by the American Arbitration Association.

.Police incident

Bridgette Wilson, 45, of Lancaster County, must also be allowed to keep her seniority within the West York Police Department, the 32-page decision states.

“There is no evidence in the record in this case as to what were the bases, if any, upon which the Mayor and/or the Borough Council determined that (Wilson) should be suspended and then have her employment terminated,” the Dec. 9 decision states.

West York Borough suspended Wilson without pay in March 2011, citing conduct unbecoming an officer for the felony wiretapping charges filed against her by the York County District Attorney’s Office, according to the decision. The borough fired her in June 2013.

West York police officers are unionized and represented by Teamsters Local 776. It was the union that represented Wilson in the arbitration hearing itself, and she also is represented by attorney Joe Korsak.

“This is one of those cases that was so egregiously bad on the municipality’s side that I ... had no doubt she’d be reinstated with back pay. So she wasn’t surprised by the decision,” he said. “I think it’s better to say she was relieved by it. But she’s also tired, as anyone would be. False accusations are not fun to have to deal with, especially in her profession.”

‘Unreasonable’ case: The amount of back pay she will receive will be adjusted by deducting the amount of money she’s made at other jobs since being suspended, according to the attorney.

“Justice delayed is justice denied,” Korsak said. “She’s had four years of working crazy jobs just trying to put food on her table because these guys didn’t want to deal with her in a fair and reasonable manner.”

Mieke Driscoll, solicitor for West York, said borough officials just received the decision.

“The borough is processing the decision at this point, analyzing it and determining what next steps should be taken,” she said.

West York has 30 days to decide whether it will appeal, Driscoll said.

Garrett Wampler, borough council president, declined to discuss the arbitration decision.

“We’re reviewing the decision at this time and will make a comment at the appropriate time,” he said.

But according to Korsak, there is an extremely limited avenue of appeal for the borough.

“Generally the only basis for overturning the decision is arbitrator misconduct,” he said.

The background: Wilson was charged in York County with felony offenses for allegedly taping phone calls from ex-girlfriend Kimberly Patton, whom Wilson had an active protection from abuse order against at the time.

The investigation began after Wilson alerted Seibel that she had recorded Patton making a harassing phone call to her, at which point West York Police Chief Justin Seibel advised Wilson to place the recording “into safe keeping.”

Wilson testified at the arbitration hearing that Seibel advised her to “keep and record everything” that happened with Patton “because it’s your career that is on the line” and because Patton had allegedly threatened to ruin Wilson’s law-enforcement career, according to the decision.

Wilson testified that Seibel told her he planned to charge Patton with making false reports. He instead alerted prosecutors to the taped phone call and Wilson was subsequently charged.

All charges dropped: Wilson’s wiretapping charges were later dropped. Her criminal attorney at the time, Korey Leslie, said Wilson taped the call “to protect herself — to show this PFA was continuously being violated.”

Wilson was charged in Lancaster County with receiving stolen property for allegedly failing to return West York Police uniform shirts, a flashlight and an identification badge, but that case also was dropped.

The arbitration decision states the borough failed to prove Wilson stole anything. Korsak has provided receipts that appear to show Wilson bought the shirts and badge herself.

Also during the arbitration hearing, Wilson countered allegations that she failed to call Seibel weekly to check in while on suspension, as she was required to do.

‘Playing a game’: Korsak in 2013 said it “became apparent to me (Seibel) was playing a game with her.” He said Seibel “would hang up on her” or not take her calls.

Seibel told The York Dispatch that Korsak’s allegation isn’t true. The chief testified to that at the arbitration, according to the decision. Seibel did not return a phone message seeking comment Tuesday.

Korsak previously provided Wilson’s phone records to The York Dispatch that appeared to show that Wilson called Seibel weekly as ordered.

The arbitrator concluded Wilson “substantially complied with the letter, spirit and intent of Chief Seibel’s directive.”

Dismissed case: The written decision notes Seibel confirmed he allowed charges in an unrelated case to be dismissed rather than alert Wilson to attend a hearing for it. The decision doesn't specify why Wilson needed to be at the hearing, but likely it's because filed the charges in that case or was a key witness.

Questioned in the hearing as to why he didn’t call her, Seibel said it’s because he had directed her to call him, and it’s “incumbent upon them to follow that order and that direction.”

Korsak said the chief never brought up the dismissed case at Wilson’s first union hearing over her discipline.

Wampler, the borough council president, declined comment about Seibel's decision not to call Wilson about the pending case.

Wilson wants to be a West York police officer again, Korsak said.

“Admittedly she’s not going to get a very good reception, but she clearly has the right to go back,” he said. “I think everyone will be walking on eggshells.”

— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com.