SCRANTON — Having succeeded in having a federal lawsuit filed by a former police officer dismissed, a Larksville councilman is now seeking sanctions against the officer and his attorney for allegedly filing a frivolous claim against him.
John Pekarovsky claims former part-time police officer Scott Kocher and his attorney, Cynthia Pollick, had no viable evidence to support Kocher’s claim that Pekarovsky had conspired with others to wrongly terminate him.
Kocher filed suit in November 2011 against Pekarovsky, Mayor Joseph Zawadski and now former police chief Tony Kopko, alleging Kocher was fired in September 2010 for speaking out about an altercation he had at a bazaar with Zawadski that August. The dispute centered on Kocher’s delay in arriving at the bazaar to enforce parking.
Kocher claimed the defendants violated his right to free speech by retaliating against him for filing an incident report detailing the altercation with Zawadski. He also claimed his right to due process was violated when the defendants disseminated information that he had allegedly included false information in the incident report relating to the Zawadski altercation.
According to court documents filed by the borough, Kocher told Zawadski he was delayed because he was tied up assisting with a call in Plymouth Borough. Kopko later determined Kocher had included false information in the report regarding how long he was in Plymouth.
Kocher’s due process allegation was based on the fact the Kopko report was included in Kocher’s personnel file, which was later viewed by Kingston Borough officials considering hiring him as a police officer. The borough rejected his application after viewing the file.
U.S. District Judge A. Richard Caputo dismissed the lawsuit in February, finding the free speech claim failed because the incident report related to a private matter, not a matter of public concern, as the law requires. He also dismissed the due process claim, finding Kocher had not provided any evidence that the named defendants were the individuals who placed the report in his file. Pollick has appealed the decision to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.
In his motion seeking sanctions, attorney Eric Brown, who represented the borough and Pekarovsky, contends Kocher acknowledged in pretrial interviews that Pekarovsky played no role in disseminating the Kopko report. Based on that, Pekarovsky had asked Pollick to drop Pekarovsky from the suit, prior to Caputo’s ruling, but Pollick refused.
“Plaintiff’s failure to identify any competent evidentiary support for his claims against defendant Pekarovsky … renders such claims frivolous and harassing, and causes needless increase in litigation costs,” Brown said.
In a response, Pollick argues the claim against Pekarvosky was not frivolous, as there was evidence he had spoken to Kopko after the Zawadski incident, and was among council members who voted to fire Kocher.