MUNROE FALLS — The city’s mayor, police chief and law director are asking a higher court to overturn a judge’s decision to uphold some of the allegations made against them in a federal complaint filed by a fired city police sergeant. Meanwhile, the former officer’s attorney would like to see the appeal dropped and have his client’s case proceed to a trial scheduled for this summer.
Mayor James Armstrong, Police Chief Jerry Hughes and Law Director Tom Kostoff recently filed an appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in which they challenged U.S. District Court Judge Benita Y. Pearson’s refusal to dismiss some of the claims made against them by former Munroe Falls Police Sgt. Bob Post.
A document filed with the court of appeals on May 4 by the defendants’ attorney John McLandrich states: "We propose to raise the denial of qualified immunity to Defendants Armstrong, Hughes and Kostoff regarding the First Amendment Retaliation claim. We also propose to raise the denial of state law tort immunity under Ohio Revised Code Chapter 2774 to individual Defendants Armstrong and Hughes."
Post’s attorney, Christopher Lalak, on May 5 asked the district court to rule that the defendants’ appeal to the court of appeals is "frivolous" and requested the trial in Post’s case against the city, Armstrong, Hughes and Kostoff move forward as scheduled on July 20.
The defendants have until May 19 to file a response and then Post’s legal team has until May 26 to issue a reply.
Post was relieved from his duties as a city police sergeant in April 2018 "following an investigation as the result of a citizen’s complaint," said Hughes on the day he dismissed Post.
Post was charged with four counts of unauthorized use of Law Enforcement Automated Database System (LEADS), a fifth-degree felony, in August 2018. The Summit County Prosecutor’s Office dismissed the charges in November 2018 after "[Hughes] provided us with information about a [police department] policy that had been on the books in the department," said James Pollack, spokesperson for the county prosecutor.
Post filed a complaint in U.S. District Court, Northern District of Ohio, Eastern Division, in December 2018 against the city of Munroe Falls, Armstrong, Hughes and Kostoff seeking compensation for lost earnings and benefits, as well as damages, court costs and attorney fees. Post accused the four defendants of First Amendment retaliation, defamation, malicious prosecution and civil conspiracy.
The defendants in December 2019 asked Pearson to dismiss all four of those claims that Post had alleged against them.
Pearson on March 31 ruled the First Amendment retaliation claim would remain in place against all four defendants and decided there was enough evidence to have claims of defamation, malicious prosecution and civil conspiracy move forward against Armstrong and Hughes. Pearson dismissed Post’s claims of defamation and civil conspiracy against the city and Kostoff, and dismissed Post’s claim of malicious prosecution against Kostoff.
Reporter Phil Keren can be reached at 330-541-9421, firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at @keren_phil.