Former W-B Officer Files Civil Rights Suit

January 9, 2018 GMT

WILKES-BARRE — A former Wilkes-Barre City Police Department officer has filed a federal lawsuit alleging Mayor Tony George and others violated his civil rights. Kyle Rogers was fired in January 2016, less than two years after he was hired, purportedly because he had repeatedly violated the department’s code of conduct. City officials say that between March 2015 and December 2015, Rogers argued with a superior officer, failed to appear at three preliminary hearings, fell asleep behind the wheel of his patrol car while on duty and inappropriately drew his weapon in the police station. According to court documents, the incident involving the weapon entailed Rogers drawing his sidearm while two other officers joked about him getting put on the night shift, with Rogers saying he would kill himself first. But the lawsuit filed last week by the Wilkes-Barre based Kwak Law Firm maintains that the reasons George gave for the firing “have no basis in fact.” The complaint maintains that a statement George made that Rogers pointed the weapon at other officers implied he had committed assault, when in fact prosecutors determined his actions were not criminal. The complaint goes on to say that while Rogers did have three other write-ups in 2015, two of them were “excessive charging” complaints that police Chief Marcella Lendacky — who at the time was a lieutenant — filed in retaliation for prior criticisms Rogers made. “The termination letter is a false fact statement public policy lie by a first week mayor intentionally worded as a pretext cover up for the retaliatory termination motivated by his political alliance with his new WBPD Chief of Police, Marcella Lendacky,” attorney Kurt J. Kwak wrote in the complaint. The complaint, which names as defendants George, Lendacky, Lt. Ralph Elick and the City of Wilkes-Barre, seeks unspecified damages to be determined at trial. City spokeswoman Tyler Ryan declined to comment, citing the pending litigation. Rogers’ firing has been a contentious issue for city officials. The police union, the Wilkes-Barre Police Benevolent Association, previously filed a grievance with the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board arguing the termination was not justified. The Unemployment Compensation Board of Review also previously determined Rogers was ineligible to collect unemployment benefits in the aftermath of his termination, prompting Rogers to appeal the decision to the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania. In September, a three-judge panel of that court found that the review board correctly determined Rogers’ actions amounted to “willful misconduct,” which makes him ineligible for compensation. Rogers was hired as a corrections officer at the Luzerne County Correctional Facility last February. Contact the writer: jhalpin@citizensvoice.com 570-821-2058