PUNXSUTAWNEY â After almost two-and-a-half years of investigations and legal action, Det. Brian Andrekovich, a Punxsutawney Borough Police officer fired in November 2009, was approved to return to work next week.
During Mondayâs council meeting, the motion for Andrekovich to return to work was approved 7-0.
Council fired Andrekovich Nov. 3, 2009, following the death of Stephen Obbish, 48, Aug. 15, 2009, in the back of a police cruiser after Andrekovich arrested him for public drunkenness at the Goodwill store in the Punxy Plaza.
In March 2010, the state Attorney Generalâs Office said it wouldnât file charges against Andrekovich, and in July 2010, the boroughâs Civil Service Commission issued a decision and order, exonerating Andrekovich of all charges and ordering his reinstatement with backpay.
Aug. 9, 2010, Punxsy Borough council opted to continue its appeal of the Civil Service Commissionâs ruling, that get Andrekovich his job back.
But later, Judge John H. Foradora upheld the commissionâs ruling.
Foradora wrote in his ruling that the court concurred with the commissionâs report, which found there was insufficient evidence to support the councilâs reasoning behind firing Andrekovich.
âThe court, having reviewed the entire record, including the video surveillance DVD, the hearing transcripts, and the exhibits produced at that hearing, agrees that the evidence was insufficient to sustain the charges identified by council in its statement of charges and as further defined in his termination letter,â Foradora wrote, and that âthe court agrees that council terminated Andrekovich when
there was not sufficient evidence to sustain the charges against him.
âAndrekovich had no forewarning of that result, though, which leaves the court to wonder how council could reach its conclusion when Andrekovichâs decisions that day were not proscribed by law, by necessary implication given a police officerâs role, or by applicable written policies.
âThe court concurs with the commissionâs report, which, unlike Borough Councilâs Statement of charges and termination letter, was well supported by the evidence,â Foradora wrote.
Following Mondayâs vote, council President Larry Chenoga declined comment about Andrekovichâs return to work as a borough police officer. Both Police Chief Tom Fedigan and Mayor James Wehrle also declined comment.
Fedigan said he would follow councilâs wishes.
Andrekovich, who attended Mondayâs meeting, offered no comment following the meeting, but he did receive congratulatory handshakes from well-wishers.
In October 2011, Andrekovich filed a lawsuit against the borough in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania by attorney Susan E. Mahood of Pittsburgh.
The suit named now-former council members Susan Glessner, Donna Lellock and Roger Steele, current council members Chenoga, Mike Porada, Bob Reesman and William Spencer, as well as Fedigan as defendants.
In his suit, Andrekovich seeks reinstatement and damages in excess of $75,000. He also seeks a trial by jury.
Thereâs no word regarding the suitâs status after councilâs vote.
Andrekovich is scheduled to return to work Monday.