New Development: The Post-Gazette confirms it will publish the McNeilly letter, but now says it will not be able to publish the letter until next week. It appears that newspaper layout considerations, not content, are the reason for the delay.
The Pittsburgh police commander who fought her demotion with a whistleblower lawsuit is about to reveal what she'll do with the money the city is paying her to settle the battle. First, she is going to use her free speech rights to write city residents a message.
The city's settlement of Commander Catherine McNeilly's whistleblower/first amendment lawsuit awards McNeilly $85,000. I've learned that McNeilly is spending $4,000 of that money to publish an open letter to Pittsburghers in the Post-Gazette next week. As I reported on Channel 4 Action News, I've obtained a copy of that letter. It's available in its entirety on the Pittsburgh Channel.
In the letter, McNeilly writes that the money addresses what she calls "the injustice done" for actions "taken in good faith and in the public interest, according to the law". She says, however, it was "only a redress for a time consuming and expensive diversion from the core issues".
McNeilly quotes the federal judge's ruling that her whistleblower case was about "allegations of wrongdoing and improper and undue influence by the mayor's office in the police department matters." The commander's letter appears to urge U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan and Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett and his public corruption unit to investigate.
Commander McNeilly writes that 'I would be greatly disappointed if..(they) chose to ignore the findings of the federal court '... "especially in light of the fact that so much remains unchanged to this day". Her open letter says "I can only hope that our criminal justice system has duly noted the federal court's findings and i have faith and confidence that the system will take up the task".
Former city Operations Director Dennis Regan resigned, even though Mayor Ravenstahl said a probe by the city solicitor did not prove allegations Regan intervened in police discipline of a police officer. That officer, Frank Rende, is the brother of the woman with whom Regan lives--the mayor's Executive Secretary Marlene Cassidy. The city has always insisted McNeilly was disciplined only for including Officer Rende's personnel data in an e-mail to city council complaining about Regan.
Referring to Mayor Ravenstahl's office, McNeilly writes that she remains convinced that "this administration genuinely believes there has never been any wrongdoing emanating from that office, regardless of what has been said in federal court."
U.S. Attorney Buchanan acknowledges receiving McNeilly's letter, and says she will take a look at the public record in the McNeilly court case.
McNeilly's public letter maintains the case began when she was trying to start disciplinary action against Officer Rende, whom she alleges was abusing sick time and off-duty employment privileges. She writes that the alleged abuse was detrimental to other officers and to public safety. In her letter, she describes it as an "irony" and "charade" that the officer has never been disciplined, and she maintains that he is getting higher pay and status as an 'acting detective'. McNeilly says the officer's actions have been "rewarded rather than reprimanded". She faults the Ravenstahl administration for keeping Cassidy as the mayor's executive secretary during and since the controversy. McNeilly's letter describes Cassidy as holding what McNeilly calls "an influential and sensitive position within the mayor's office, making her privy now, as she has been throughout, to all aspects of this situation". Despite extensive references, McNeilly's letter never uses Regan's, Rende's, or Cassidy's names.
In her letter, McNeilly writes that "I do not intend to become enriched personally as a result of this redress of justice". The commander says she has decided to create an charitable endowment from the settlement money that will make donations to several charities for years to come.
She writes that among those benefiting will be: the American Civil Liberties Union, two churches, a convent, a retirement community, a group called "Concerns of Police Survivors, Inc" (which assists families of officers killed in the line of duty), and the Allegheny Chapter of the Multiple Sclerosis Society. McNeilly says her husband, former Pittsburgh Police Chief Robert McNeilly, her brother--city police chaplain Father Lou Vallone--, and her attorneys are also making personal non-tax-deductable donations to the endowment. Vallone is the is pastor of one of the churches to benefit from the planned endowment. McNeilly's letter invites Mayor Ravenstahl, Police Chief Nate Harper, and their attorneys to make donations as well to charities of their choice.
Prior to the Channel 4 Action News story, the Mayor's Office said it had not yet seen the letter.