Judge orders WB to release report on police force for upcoming civil trial

By Jerry Lynott - [email protected]
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WILKES-BARRE — A Luzerne County judge Friday ordered the city to release the yet-to-be made public report on the police department to a plaintiff’s attorney in a pending civil lawsuit.

Judge Lesa Gelb granted the request of Kingston attorney Neil O’Donnell to compel the city to immediately produce the March 30 report done by the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association.

O’Donnell declined comment. He sued in 2016 on behalf of Donna Jackson, of Swoyersville, for injuries she suffered two years earlier in a crash caused by a police pursuit that began in Hanover Township and ended in Wilkes-Barre.

The suit named as defendants Wilkes-Barre, Hanover Township, their police departments and Douglas Johnson, the driver of a car that caused the November 2014 wreck at River and Market streets.

The case is set to go to trial May 29.

Gelb’s order set a 48-hour window to produce the more than 100-page report paid with $26,212 in taxpayer funds.

City attorney Tim Henry has been reviewing the report to ensure it complies with the state Right to Know law before making it public. Unedited copies were provided to city council members April 4 after it was picked up in Harrisburg from the PCPA. The two city newspapers also obtained copies and posted full and partial versions online.

Henry did not immediately return a call Friday afternoon.

The report was critical of the police administration and said Chief Marcella Lendacky and Commander Ron Foy were unqualified for their senior-level management positions. It also said Lendacky and Foy were responsible for the long-running rift between management and rank-and-file officers.

Lendacky gave notice earlier this month she would retire June 3.

The city Thursday advertised to fill the chief’s post that is budgeted at a salary of $95,481 plus benefits this year.

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Ruling ahead of upcoming civil trial

By Jerry Lynott

[email protected]

Reach Jerry Lynott at 570-991-6120 or on Twitter @TLJerryLynott.

Reach Jerry Lynott at 570-991-6120 or on Twitter @TLJerryLynott.