PUNXSUTAWNEY — 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 Monday’s 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 General’s Office said it wouldn’t file charges against Andrekovich, and in July 2010, the borough’s 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 Commission’s ruling, that get Andrekovich his job back.
But later, Judge John H. Foradora upheld the commission’s ruling.
Foradora wrote in his ruling that the court concurred with the commission’s report, which found there was insufficient evidence to support the council’s reasoning behind firing Andrekovich.
“The 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,” Foradora wrote, and that “the court agrees that council terminated Andrekovich when
there was not sufficient evidence to sustain the charges against him.
“Andrekovich had no forewarning of that result, though, which leaves the court to wonder how council could reach its conclusion when Andrekovich’s decisions that day were not proscribed by law, by necessary implication given a police officer’s role, or by applicable written policies.
“The court concurs with the commission’s report, which, unlike Borough Council’s Statement of charges and termination letter, was well supported by the evidence,” Foradora wrote.
Following Monday’s vote, council President Larry Chenoga declined comment about Andrekovich’s 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 council’s wishes.
Andrekovich, who attended Monday’s 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.
There’s no word regarding the suit’s status after council’s vote.
Andrekovich is scheduled to return to work Monday.