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July 21, 2011

Chico’s partner to stay on police force

NEW CASTLE — Chico’s partner will keep his job.

New Castle policeman James Hoyland will remain temporarily suspended, reimburse the city for a police dog and relinquish his K-9 unit membership.

New Castle City Council Wednesday night determined the fate of the patrolman, whose K-9 partner died June 4 after being left in a car for nearly four hours.

Chico, a 6-year-old brindle Dutch Shepherd, was found unresponsive in the back of a police cruiser and rushed to a veterinarian, but died soon after. An autopsy indicated he had died of heat stroke.

The vote was 3-2, with Bill Panella, Richard Beshero and council president MaryAnne Gavrile in favor. Karen DeCarlo and Ed Yerage voted no.

At a private hearing Wednesday before attorney Phillip L. Clark, who served as administrative law judge, council heard testimony from one witness — New Castle Police Chief Thomas Sansone.

At Hoyland’s request, the hearing was closed to the public.

“This was for council alone,” Gavrile said. “Even the mayor was not included in the hearing.”

Prior to the hearing, Mayor Anthony Mastrangelo was present, as were about two dozen police officers, including some from Union and Shenango townships.

Thursday morning, Mastrangelo said he had no comment.

The city was represented by solicitor Michael Bonner. Hoyland, represented by Eric Stoltenberg of Pittsburgh, an attorney for the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 21, was not present.

Gavrile said Hoyland did not attend the hearing on the advice of his attorney.

“He said if he did, he could be giving up his right to arbitrate.”

Council deliberated for about 45 minutes before reaching its decision.

“He will be suspended without pay for a total of 60 days,” Gavrile said. She noted Hoyland has been suspended since about June 6, and is now in his 32nd day. He also must make restitution for the dog prior to his reinstatement and will no longer be part of the K-9 unit.

Gavrile noted the same legal firm represented former New Castle officer James J. Paglia. On March 14, council voted unanimously to remove Paglia from the force. Paglia has appealed that ruling.

“We felt that is appropriate discipline,” Gavrile said of council’s decision Wednesday. She added it was difficult.

“The hardest thing was we were given no evidence for the defense,” she said.

Gavrile added council was able to question Sansone, and had many questions for Clark during their deliberations.

Thursday morning, Sansone said the decision was up to council “and I must live with what they decided.”

He declined to give his opinion or to say what he would have liked to have seen.

“We’ll proceed and wait until we can schedule his return.”

He added Hoyland, “is holding up pretty well, considering everything.”

The chief said he is checking on prices of dogs to determine what restitution the officer will be expected to make.

“I don’t know if we’re replacing Chico or pricing a generic police dog and I don’t know if we can count on anything from insurance.”

Police dogs cost about $10,000, he said, and the training could take the price as high as $15,000.

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