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(Updated to clarify suspension versus termination.)
Duquesne City Council has voted to fire a longtime police secretary in a move that upset some residents.
At its March 27 meeting, council voted unanimously to terminate city employee Lori Achtzehn, who had worked for Duquesne for more than 40 years. Achtzehn was suspended at the time of the vote.
Mayor Nickole Nesby said that an investigation revealed Achtzehn violated Pennsylvania Justice Network and PennDOT Driver License Information System policies.
Nesby said Achtzehn accessed records and files from the system without cause and accused Achtzehn of 21 violations over a two-year timeframe.
But Achtzehn said Nesby's comments at the council meeting were slanderous and that the mayor is attacking employees held over from former Mayor Phil Krivacek's administration.
“Everything that I did was to keep the police department running smoothly and efficiently,” she said. “A mountain was made of a molehill just to get me out, and I feel that I am being persecuted totally unfairly. They are just going after everyone from the previous administration. There should be a class action suit for all the slander that is being spewed.”
Achtzehn said she has worked under six mayors and city councils, along with six police chiefs, and in that time has never been the subject of any disciplinary action.
“I did nothing to be ashamed of,” she said. “I have devoted my entire life to the City of Duquesne, which is my hometown.”
Duquesne police Chief Tom Dunlevy declined comment, calling it a personnel matter.
City resident Andy Vamos voiced his support of Achtzehn during the council meeting.
“Every time I stop in the office, Lori is doing what she’s supposed to be doing,” he said. “I know how she works and she has done a wonderful job. I’m not too happy about her being let go.”
Councilman John Gyure said he feels the termination was harsh due to the fact that Achtzehn has been with the city for so many years. No one was hurt by her actions, he said.
“I’m just not sure this is serious enough to terminate her,” Gyure said.
But Nesby said Achtzehn had harmed her "position of trust" by “going into a government computer system and revealing personal information.” Misusing law enforcement databases is a criminal offense, Nesby said.
Achtzehn said she is being represented by Teamsters Local Union 205 and an attorney.
Cami DiBattista is a freelance writer who covers municipal news from Duquesne and White Oak, along with other topics, for Tube City Almanac.
Originally published April 02, 2018.