March 02

Williamsport cop sues again over being bypassed for promotion to top posts - PennLive

WILLIAMSPORT -- A veteran Williamsport police officer who has a federal lawsuit over being bypassed for promotions has filed a second one, claiming it happened again despite being the most qualified.

Lt. Steven Helm’s suit filed Wednesday in Lycoming County court focuses on him not being promoted to assistant chief last May but lists other times he was bypassed for chief or assistant chief.

Helm, who plans to retire next month, contends two mayors bypassed him for promotions despite the chief recommending him.

The new suit, in which the city and Mayor Derek Slaughter are the defendants, is similar to one Helm filed last April in U.S. Middle District Court.

The most recent time Helm was bypassed for assistant chief occurred after the federal suit had been filed, his attorney Michael J. Zicolello said explaining the second litigation.

Helm, former president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 29, claims he has not been promoted because of statements in two earlier civil rights suits that were settled out of court for $150,000.

They accused the police administration under then-Chief David J. Young and Capt. Jody Miller of being anti-union.

The new suit, like the one in federal court, details the opportunities former Mayor Gabriel J. Campana and Slaughter had to promote him to chief, assistant chief or patrol captain.

It claims Chief Damon Hagan, who was named to the post in January 2019 after Young resigned, wanted Helm to be his assistant but the two mayors refused to promote him because of his previous lawsuits.

The assistant chief’s position became open in September 2019 but Officer Mark Sechrist was promoted to fill it.

When Sechrist retired in January 2021, Agent Justin Snyder was appointed detective captain and Agent Jason Bolt to the new position of patrol captain.

Helm claims he and two other officers with more experience than Bolt were bypassed because they had filed lawsuits.

When Hagan unexpectedly announced his retirement last May 24, Slaughter named Snyder chief and re-created the assistant chief’s position and named Bolt to fill it.

The speech contained in the previous suits was the motivating or substantial factor in him not being promoted, Helm contends in his suit that seeks unspecified damages.

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