Judge: W-B Officials Don’t Have To Release Police Dept. Assessment

May 5, 2018 GMT

The City of Wilkes-Barre doesn’t have to release a controversial police department assessment report to the plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit — at least for now. Commonwealth Court Judge Patricia McCullough approved an emergency petition that attorney Jack Dean filed Wednesday asking the higher court to stay Luzerne County Judge Lesa Gelb’s order to release the report to Donna Jackson, who was injured as a result of a police pursuit in Wilkes-Barre in 2014. McCullough ordered the report could be withheld while she reviews Gelb’s order. Jackson’s attorney, Neil O’Donnell, had filed a motion in county court last month asking Gelb to compel the city to turn over the report, which is critical of Wilkes-Barre police Chief Marcella Lendacky and Patrol Commander Ron Foy, and describes a departmental directives system “in chaos.” Although the city has argued that the report is not a public record and refuses to release it to the public, news media outlets have obtained copies from sources and published at least parts of it online. Dean has argued that the police pursuit took place more than a year before Lendacky was appointed chief, that information in the report was not relevant to Jackson’s case and that it would “confuse and inflame the jury” in the civil lawsuit. O’Donnell has argued that parts of the report “confirm significant confusion with multiple versions of (Wilkes-Barre Police Department) Standard Operating Procedures all in place on the date of this pursuit.” Mark Bufalino, another attorney representing the city, said he was pleased with McCullough’s order, calling it “appropriate” and citing “serious legal issues with the release of the report.” O’Donnell said Gelb “got it right,” and he would “take this fight to Commonwealth Court and back to county court. We’re in this for the long haul to get justice for Donna Jackson, who suffered a traumatic brain injury as a result of an improper and ill-advised police pursuit.” Jackson was injured when Douglas Jackson, the driver of a stolen vehicle being pursued by police, struck a vehicle at an intersection, and that vehicle then struck Jackson’s vehicle. Contact the writer: smocarsky@citizensvoice.com 570-821-2110, @MocarskyCV