Police Chief Received Due Process

In 2001, Herbert Truhe was hired by East Penn Township, Pennsylvania as Police Chief, and received a salary of $9.00 an hour. Shortly after he started work, the only other officer employed by the Township resigned, leaving Truhe as the only police officer in the Township until he was terminated.

Over time, the relationship between Truhe and William Schwab, a Township Supervisor and the Police Liaison Supervisor, began to deteriorate. On at least one occasion, Truhe told Schwab that new policies the Township was implementing were “bullshit,” and that he would “do whatever he wanted to do.” As the months passed, other disciplinary offenses mounted.

Finally, on May 13, 2005, Schwab wrote Truhe a letter informing him that the Board of Supervisors would be meeting to consider disciplinary action against him. Schwab listed a number of accusations made against Truhe, including conduct unbecoming, insubordination, neglect of duty, and disobedience of orders. Schwab also recited a litany of policy violations, including Truhe’s use of the Township police cruiser for his personal commute, Truhe’s failure to dress in an appropriate manner, and Truhe’s failure to properly patrol the entire Township.

When Truhe refused to appear at the Board of Supervisors meeting, the Supervisors eventually suspended Truhe for 30 days.

Almost immediately thereafter, Schwab brought new disciplinary charges against Truhe, alleging that during the suspension Truhe had failed to return all police materials to the Township as required. The Board of Supervisors met again, and voted to terminate Truhe’s employment.

Truhe filed a federal court lawsuit, alleging that the Township failed to follow procedural due process by not giving him adequate notice of the charges against him. The Court dismissed the lawsuit.

While the Court found that Truhe had due process rights – all police officers in Pennsylvania have a property right to the job by virtue of a state statute – it also found that the Township’s termination process was constitutionally adequate. As the Court analyzed it, “while Truhe alleges that the Township never gave him a formal list of charges, notice or a hearing regarding his suspension, the Court concludes that no reasonable jury could agree with Truhe. Rather, the record is replete with letters notifying Truhe with a litany of charges made against him. Many of these letters also informed Truhe that he had the right to demand a public hearing, would be afforded a full opportunity to address each charge, and to appeal any adverse action taken against him. This is adequate pre-deprivation process. The fact that Truhe chose not to avail himself of this process does not alter the Court’s conclusion. Truhe cannot merely decide not to use the procedure provided by state law and instead resort to a federal forum.”

Truhe v. East Penn Township, 2007 WL 184890 (M.D.Pa. 2007).