The trial in a fired Munroe Falls police sergeant’s federal complaint against the city, mayor, police chief and law director that was scheduled to start in July has been postponed while the defendants challenge a district court judge’s ruling in the case.
Mayor James Armstrong, Police Chief Jerry Hughes and Law Director Tom Kostoff on April 28 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.
Post’s attorney, Christopher Lalak, on May 5 asked the district court to rule that the defendants’ appeal to the court of appeals was "frivolous" and requested the trial in Post’s case against the city, Armstrong, Hughes and Kostoff move forward as scheduled on July 20.
Judge Pearson on June 2 denied Lalak’s motion to declare that the defendants’ appeal was "frivolous," and ruled that "trial court proceedings in this case are hereby stayed pending the outcome of Defendants’ …appeal."
A telephone mediation conference is scheduled at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit on July 9 at 10 a.m.
Post was relieved from his duties as a Munroe Falls 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 policy that had been on the books in the [police] department," said James Pollack, spokesperson for the county prosector.
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, Kostoff and Hughes seeking compensation for lost earnings and benefits, as well as damages, court costs and attorney fees.
Post is accusing the defendants of First Amendment retaliation, defamation, malicious prosecution and civil conspiracy. The defendants in December 2019 asked Judge Pearson to dismiss all of those claims.
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 the defamation, malicious prosecution and civil conspiracy claims 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. On April 28, the defendants appealed Pearson’s decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.
Reporter Phil Keren can be reached at 330-541-9421, email@example.com, or on Twitter at @keren_phil.