A judge’s decision Friday delayed the release of the Wilkes-Barre Police Department report to attorneys preparing to take a civil case to trial later this month.
Commonwealth Court Judge Patricia McCullough granted the request of city attorneys to stay the proceedings in Luzerne County Court until the issue is decided on appeal.
The report prepared by the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association was critical of the lack of professional training for Wilkes-Barre Police Chief Marcella Lendacky and Commander Ron Foy. The city cited a state Right to Know exemption to keep confidential the report paid for by taxpayer funds. The two local newspapers obtained copies and have made it available online.
The city represented by the firm of Elliott Greenleaf appealed Luzerne County Judge Lesa Gelb’s ruling from April 27 that ordered the city to provide the report in the pending civil case.
The city’s attorneys argued the report is not relevant to the suit filed by Donna Jackson, of Swoyersville, for injuries she suffered in 2014 as a result of a crash caused by police engaged in the pursuit of driver wanted on theft charges.
But Kingston attorney Neil O’Donnell, who represents Jackson, argued the report contains information regarding police training and a statement from Lendacky that problems with police policies date to previous administrations. She was not the chief at the time of the crash. Even though the report is publicly available, O’Donnell asked for an authenticated version from the city.
The suit filed in 2016 named Wilkes-Barre, Hanover Township, their police departments and Douglas Johnson, the driver of the fleeing vehicle that caused the crash, as defendants. The case was set to go to trial May 29.
“The trial court got this order right,” O’Donnell said. “We will fight Wilkes-Barre and Hanover Township in the Commonwealth Court and the trial court.”
Reach Jerry Lynott at 570-991-6120 or on Twitter @TLJerryLynott.