ROCHELLE BILAL, the former Philadelphia police officer who heads the Guardian Civic League, has been terminated as public-safety director in Delaware County's Colwyn Borough, where she had quietly collected a paycheck while on the city of Philadelphia's payroll.
Shifting political winds in Colwyn led to the recent reinstatement of Police Chief Bryan Hills, who said yesterday that he was surprised that the department was able to operate under Bilal's control.
"They got a bunch of good guys there, but everything was broken and not functioning properly - the cars, the radios - and the paperwork was just not organized," Hills said. "I don't know if it's her fault, but it was in disarray."
Bilal was hired in 2012 by then-Borough Council President Tonette Pray, who refused to release information - even to the mayor - about how much the cash-strapped borough was paying Bilal or what her duties were. Borough officials ignored a Daily News Right-to-Know request filed last year seeking information about Bilal.
"I don't answer any questions," Pray said in April. "My bottom line is I don't give out information."
Pray was ousted this month as Colwyn's council president. Paula Brown, the incoming borough manager, said payroll records show that Bilal, a city employee through at least last April, had been earning between $25 and $35 an hour in Colwyn since November 2012, typically working 32 hours per week. She was fired earlier this month by the new council majority.
"She will not receive another dime," said Brown, the former mayor of neighboring Darby Borough. "It's a position that's not needed. You have a mayor and a police chief."
Brown said the borough's finances under Pray's secretive administration are hard to decipher. Some accounts remain password-protected.
"Tonette had everything on lockdown. You can't find anything," Brown said. "There are papers piled up all over the place. Cigarettes in soda bottles. The doorway is blocked by filing cabinets. There are wires all over the place. It looks like an abandoned house."
In May, the police department and borough hall were raided as part of a Philadelphia Police Internal Affairs probe involving Bilal. City police rules prohibit outside employment with other police departments. Bilal retired from her Philadelphia job in April.
"There is an active investigation that's still taking place," Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey said yesterday. "I won't pass any judgment until we know exactly what's going on."
Ramsey said that detectives would alert the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office if they find evidence of a crime.
Bilal is the second female president of Philadelphia's 2,000-member Guardian Civic League, the local chapter of the National Black Police Association. She plans to appeal her termination in Colwyn, calling it "illegal." Bilal's assistant, Wanda Davis, also was fired.
"There's been a political fight up there in Colwyn forever," Bilal said. "It's the Republicans against the Democrats."
Bilal said she had increased the department from four to 14 officers and had strengthened community-outreach efforts. For example, she said, she developed a police-complaint form, which the department did not have.
"I went in there to do a specific task, and basically had reached all the tasks they asked me to do," Bilal said.
Bilal's attorney, Brian Puricelli, said documents showing that Bilal had worked simultaneously for the Colwyn and Philadelphia police departments are not proof of wrongdoing or double-dipping. Rather, he said, they merely show that she juggled two jobs, as many people do.