WILKES-BARRE — A city paramedic said he was subjected to a disciplinary hearing and has been the focus of an ongoing criminal investigation at the direction of Mayor Tom Leighton for allegedly impersonating him online.
Tyler Hammond further explained the alleged retaliation against him in the latest version of the lawsuit he filed against the mayor and city Friday in federal court.
“Mayor Leighton would be the only person concerned about someone impersonating him,” the pending suit said.
Furthermore, according to the pending suit, the mayor directed city officials and personnel to take action against Hammond who was exercising his constitutional right of free speech by accessing the federal court system to expose insider trading and ethics violations related to the sale of city properties.
City spokeswoman Liza Prokop said all media inquiries on the matter have been referred to attorney Jack Dean. He said the amended suit “doesn’t cure the fatal deficiencies” in the previous version and that it would also be dismissed by the court. “It doesn’t add anything,” Dean said Sunday.
The amended suit followed a ruling on Tuesday June 10 by U.S. District Judge Malachy Mannion that dismissed the previous version. But the judge allowed Hammond’s attorney Cynthia Pollick to correct procedural errors and refile it by June 20.
Hammond alleged the investigation and hearing were in retaliation for another suit he and his wife Antonia filed against the city, Leighton and others over the sale of Old River Road Bakery property next door to them in 2009. In the property-related suit the couple alleged corrupt dealings by the city and mayor, who as a real estate agent, had confidential information on properties in Wilkes-Barre, including the former bakery.
Mannion dismissed it on June 5, saying there was insufficient evidence to support allegations by the Hammonds. But Pollick said she will appeal.
The pending suit stems from Leighton’s actions on July 8, 2013, less than two weeks after Hammond testified under oath during the evidence gathering stage of the property suit. Hammond said that at that time he became the focus of a criminal investigation at the direction of the mayor for alleged misappropriation of the likeness of another individual, “specifically falsely holding himself out as the Mayor of the City of Wilkes-Barre.”
The following month, Leighton directed that Hammond be brought up on misconduct charges “surrounding the satirical webpage” on the mayor along with information from the criminal investigation, according to the pending suit.
The retaliation continued when Hammond was informed on Sept. 5, 2013, that he would have a disciplinary hearing the following day. The mayor was sent a copy of the hearing notice from the city human resources department, the pending suit said.
The “fabricated hearing” was held on Sept. 6, 2013, with Hammond, city human resources director Melissa Schatzel and union representative Sean Chandler attending. But Hammond has yet to be informed of the results of the hearing, according to the pending suit.
The police investigation has been ongoing for nearly year, despite Hammond having neither committed any crime nor impersonated the mayor, the pending suit said.
In addition to the mayor, Hammond named the city as a defendant in the pending suit, alleging the city failed to train its officials and personnel not to retaliate against a citizen who engages in free speech. Hammond is seeking a jury trial and the end of retaliatory conduct against him.