WILKES-BARRE — After a federal judge dismissed his lawsuit against the city, a former Wilkes-Barre officer filed a suit in county court claiming he was wrongfully terminated after he allegedly pointed a loaded gun at other officers inside police headquarters.
Kyle Rogers’ attorney, Kurt Kwak, is calling the latest filing their “last hope.”
Rogers was fired by Wilkes-Barre Mayor Tony George during George’s first week in office on Jan. 4, 2016.
On Dec. 15, 2015, Rogers allegedly pointed the loaded weapon at other officers. It was the last in a series of alleged departmental violations by Rogers in less than two full years on the force.
The previous federal suit made a total of 12 claims, including that Rogers had been fired for criticizing former Police Chief Marcella Lendacky and that he had been denied due process.
That suit was thrown out in July by U.S. District Judge A. Richard Caputo, who said Rogers failed to state a claim against the city, George, Lendacky and others.
Failure to state a claim means the allegations presented by the plaintiff were insufficient to move the case forward.
Caputo dismissed the suit with prejudice, which means Rogers could not refile it at the federal level but could do so with a lower court.
Rogers’ new suit filed at the county level Wednesday is substantially similar to the federal filing, but Kwak writes it makes claims only as a result of alleged infractions of state law.
Kwak’s suit is also significantly shorter than its federal equivalent — the length of which Caputo balked at, saying it is “the quintessential shotgun pleading which has been criticized by the Third Circuit.” The new lawsuit comes in at less than half the length of the original 141-page document.
Despite this, Kwak’s suit takes numerous diversions, taking no fewer than six pages to lay out the history of the governmental system of the City of Wilkes-Barre since its settling in 1762.
Kwak is claiming ex-Chief Lendacky, who was not one of the officers involved in the Dec. 15 incident, trumped up the allegations against Rogers in response to criticism of her competency.
Kwak also writes George defamed him by giving what he characterizes as false statements on the incident to the media, specifically highlighting Times Leader articles.
Reached by phone Thursday, Kwak said the incident with the gun was an act of negligence, saying his client should have been suspended but not fired.
Kwak is seeking an unspecified amount of restitution for his client, and he is also looking for the court to officially rule that George’s termination of Rogers was illegal.
After his termination, Rogers applied for unemployment compensation, which the city denied. The denial was reversed by a referee, but the city challenged the reversal and won. Rogers appealed, but a state court denied his appeal in September, and the state Supreme Court refused to consider the matter.
Since his firing, Rogers has worked with Harveys Lake police and was hired in February 2017 as a Luzerne County corrections officer.
Reach Patrick Kernan at 570-991-6386 or on Twitter @PatKernan