D.A. Urges Old Forge to Fire Chief

OLD FORGE — The Old Forge Police Chief had been suspended until the outcome of his trial.

A jury acquitted Larry Semenza Tuesday of the most serious charges in a child sex case but convicted him of others which means he can no longer be a police officer.

It was a partial victory for suspended Old Forge Police Chief Larry Semenza in court this week. He was acquitted of serious felony sex abuse charges, but convicted of two misdemeanors for having inappropriate contact with a 15-year-old girl back in 2005.

Because of those convictions, state law says he can no longer be a cop. Semenza’s been suspended without pay since may of last year.

Now the state of the Old Forge Police Department is in even more question. The department has had two different officers in charge in the last year and borough officials haven’t decided on what to do with the Chief’s position.

“I think now that he’s been convicted, they should fire him, terminate him, whatever term you want to use, A.S.A.P.” said Lackawanna County District Attorney Andy Jarbola.

Jarbola wanted to chime in on Old Forge’s dilemma. Less than 24 hours after the verdict came down for Chief Semenza, Jarbola sent a letter to Old Forge Mayor Michelle Avvisato urging the Borough to fire Semenza.

In the letter Jarbola wrote, “Removing Mr. Semenza as an officer and Chief of the Department are necessary to begin the process of rebuilding the trust of the community and the sense of morale within the Department.”

“I do think there are some issues with how the public looks at the police department in Old Forge. We hear the complaints here, I hear them from folks in Old Forge and I think the mayor and Old Forge should take a hard look at that,” Jarbola added during an interview Wednesday.

Jarbola thinks Old Forge’s new chief should be someone from outside the area. Mayor Avvisato hasn’t responded to Jarbola’s letter or said if the Borough plans to fire Chief Semenza.

The state of the Police Department may be the least of Old Forge’s worries. The Borough, Semenza, and two other former borough officials are named as defendants in a civil lawsuit connected to the same allegations of sexual abuse.

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