WILKES-BARRE — Two city police officers disciplined while they held leadership roles in the union for criticizing their former bosses’ management of the department settled their retaliation suit for $250,000.
Wilkes-Barre Police Officer Dan Duffy, Sgt. Phil Myers and their attorney, Mark Frost of Philadelphia, agreed to a lump sum payment under the terms of the confidential settlement signed Aug. 14, three days after filing notice of the resolution in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, Scranton.
A copy of the deal, obtained Monday by the Times Leader, stated the payment was to be made within 30 days of the agreement being signed and with city council’s approval. But council chairman Bill Barrett said insurance is covering the settlement, so council does not have to approve expending any city funds.
The city, former Mayor Tony George, former police chief Marcella Lendacky and former commander Ron Foy, offered to settle in order “to avoid the expense, inconvenience and distraction of continued litigation” of the suit filed against them on Jan. 5, 2018.
The court previously dismissed the city as a defendant and precluded the officers from pursuing a municipal liability claim. The case survived legal challenges, allowing it to proceed on the basis that Duffy and Myers were speaking as elected union leaders and their speech was protected because it was not within the scope of their official duties as police officers and public employees.
The remaining defendants admitted no liability or fault, according to the deal.
But the suit portrayed the former department brass as petty, reckless and vindictive for their investigations into postings critical of them on the Facebook page of the Wilkes-Barre Police Benevolent Association and statements Duffy, a former vice president of the WBPBA , and Myers, former president of the union, made to council.
Speaking as union leaders, Duffy and Myers, called for an investigation of Lendacky for allegedly altering reports to list lesser crimes than had been committed, and for her and Foy’s mismanagement of the department.
Myers and Duffy had been suspended without pay. The discipline against Duffy culminated with his firing on Oct. 18, 2017, for sending an email questioning Foy’s leadership that George, a former city police chief, took as a personal threat. Duffy was reinstated nearly a year later, on Oct. 16, 2018
By then George had eliminated Foy’s position as Commander of Patrol in May 2018 and demoted him to detective, the position he previously held.
Lendacky, who served more than 29 years with the department, retired in June 2018 from the post George appointed her to when he took office in January 2016.
An independent investigation undertaken by the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association of Harrisburg at the request of council and released in April of 2018 found Lendacky and Foy failed to meet the common qualification standards for their leadership positions.
George sought applications for Lendacky’s replacement and eventually named veteran officer Joseph Coffay, who had been acting chief and Commander of Investigations. The PCAP’s report said Coffay had qualifying standards to be considered for a senior administrative position.
George unsuccessfully sought a second term in 2019 and lost to former city councilman George Brown, who retained Coffay as chief.