FORKS TOWNSHIP, PENNSYLVANIA – When Forks Township police officer William Mills announced he was diagnosed with terminal cancer, his colleagues were visibly shaken.
Mills, who had been taking sick days frequently, was placed on leave with pay. A month later, Mills’ brother contacted the department to break the news about the six-year member of their force.
Mills had checked into an alcohol rehab center.
The turn of events was part of a series of alleged lies Mills told his superiors, leading to his firing in July. Mills, who was scheduled for a hearing before the township board of supervisors Wednesday night, has dropped his appeal and resigned.
Attorney Donald Russo said he was prepared to defend Mills against the township’s allegations that the officer fell asleep on the job, faked cancer and yellow fever, and lied about his grandmother’s death. But Mills, 34, of Upper Nazareth Township, decided to resign.
“Common sense would dictate the conclusion that one would prefer to just move on with one’s career rather than have a possibility of an adverse finding on that record,” Russo said. “There’s never going to be any findings on these charges.”
Mills was fired for continuing violations of the department’s code of conduct, neglecting his duties and conduct unbecoming of a police officer, according to his 12-page notice of termination. Russo said Mills maintains the township’s allegations are false.
According to the notice of termination:
The first sign of trouble began in 2010 when Mills’ attendance for assigned duties declined. He exhausted all allotted sick time and called on several occasions requesting emergency personal time off for a variety of “unexpected” issues. He also admitted drinking a bottle of vodka a day when he was not scheduled to work.
In 2011, Mills at best completed the bare minimum expected from a patrol officer and his attendance for assigned duties continued to decline. He exhausted all sick time and continued to call in sick without providing medical excuses to show justification. By June 2011, he had used twice his allotted sick time.
Mills had what appeared to be a seizure in the police garage June 24, 2011, and was hospitalized for four days. He said this was a result of alcohol withdrawal but declined further assistance even though the department strongly suggested it.
About a month later, Mills told Chief Greg Dorney and several other officers he had terminal cancer. Upon returning to work in late September 2011, Mills admitted his cancer was a “complete fabrication.” He continued to take sick days, even though he had no remaining sick time, and his performance declined.
During a 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. shift Dec. 10, 2011, Mills told a detective about 11:45 p.m.: “You just woke me up. I was at Forks Elementary School sleeping.” About 5 a.m., another officer found Mills parked at the Wells Fargo Bank. He didn’t respond until the fifth attempt to contact him on his phone, finally answering: “I just woke up and needed to get the cobwebs out of my head.”
Nine days later, Mills said he wouldn’t report to work because his grandmother died and he was taking 24 hours of bereavement as allowed under the collective bargaining agreement. An internal investigation revealed it was actually Mills’ former girlfriend’s grandmother who died, according to the township.
Mills requested time off for “stress and anxiety issues” on Christmas Eve 2011 after he arrived at the station disheveled and had difficulty walking and maintaining balance. He missed a physical in February, claiming his truck had flat tires and his cellphone wasn’t working. The department discovered he was in a drug and alcohol rehab program and suspended him for 14 days.
Dorney told Mills the department would let him return to full-time duty if he met recommendations of a licensed psychologist, according to the township. He also had to pass required firearms evaluations. Mills was told verbally and in writing he could be terminated if all of those requirements were not met.
Mills failed to attend two scheduled evaluations for required firearms qualifications, saying he had health problems. On June 15, Mills told Dorney and Human Resource Manager Barbara Bartek he was diagnosed with yellow fever and prescribed an antibiotic. Alarmed by the seriousness of the illness, the township investigated whether there were any cases of yellow fever diagnosed in the area.
Forks determined there no were no diagnosed cases, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would be involved if Mills had yellow fever.
“Officer Mills’ actions placed himself and others, including his fellow officers, in positions where they could be compromised,” the township wrote in the notice of termination. “Officer Mills repeatedly provided false and inaccurate information to his superiors and other representatives of Forks Township.”