Council OKs Obbish settlement

PUNXSUTAWNEY — During its meeting Monday, Punxsutawney Borough Council approved a settlement in a lawsuit brought against the borough and other co-defendants in the death of Stephen Obbish, 48, Aug. 15, 2009.

Borough Solicitor Jay Lundy said the settlement involved the case of Edward Stanley Obbish Jr. individually and as the administrator of The Estate of Stephen Obbish vs. Punxsutawney Borough, Mayor James Wehrle, Dispatcher Jan Scott and Det. Brian Andrekovich.

Lundy said council approved a settlement agreement and a general release of claims.

Now, the borough must wait for the executed version before releasing details of the settlement with the Obbish family, Lundy said, adding that the release of that information would be available within the next few days.

“This has nothing to do with Det. Andrekovich’s job status as a borough police officer,” he said.

Mayor James T. Wehrle declined comment after the meeting, but said he would make a statement once the details of the settlement were released to the public.

Andrekovich, who also attended the meeting, also declined comment.
At its March 15 meeting, council opted to continue its appeal of the Punxsutawney Civic Service Commission’s July 2010 ruling that ordered that Andrekovich be reinstated with the department after council fired him stemming from Stephen Obbish’s death Aug. 15, 2009, in the back of a borough police cruiser.

Aug. 9, 2010, Punxsutawney Borough Council voted 5-1 to appeal the commission’s order.

During council’s March 15 meeting, now-former solicitor Timothy Morris said Dec. 20, 2010, a mediation conference was held in Pittsburgh regarding the Obbish family’s federal civil action.

“Although this case was defended by the borough’s insurance company, PennPRIME, the proposed settlement agreement terms must be upheld by the Borough of Punxsutawney,” Morris read. “The Andrekovich case and the Obbish family cases are intertwined.”

Morris read, “One of the terms of the proposed settlement agreement with the Obbish family reads as follows: The Borough agrees to continue to pursue in good faith the civil service appeal arising from the termination of Detective (Brian) Andrekovich before the Jefferson County Court of Common Pleas and, if necessary and deemed appropriate by Borough Council,” on appeal to the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania.
“Although Borough Council respects Jefferson County Common Pleas Judge John Foradora’s opinion in the Andrekovich case, they are obligated to appeal his decision,” he read.

In his ruling, Foradora wrote that the court concurred with the commission’s report, which said there was insufficient evidence to support council’s reasoning behind firing Andrekovich.

“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.