Council votes 7-0 to award Andrekovich lost wages, health care costs

PUNXSUTAWNEY — Punxsutawney Borough Council voted to award a monetary settlement with recently reinstated Borough Police Officer Det. Brian Andrekovich at a special meeting held Tuesday in council chambers.

A motion was made by Toby Santik, council member, to pay the agreed amounts to Andrekovich.

The amount of the award was not disclosed at Tuesday's special meeting.
"I make the motion that the Borough of Punxsutawney pay Brian Andrekovich the agreed amounts for: Lost wages, interest on the lost wages, mileage and parking on account of the federal lawsuit," Santik said.

Santik's motion also included "healthcare costs prior to the reinstatement of (Andrekovich's) health coverage and to pay (the) Pa. Bureau of Unemployment Compensation."

The motion was seconded by Bill Spencer and approved 7-0 by the entire council.

That was the only business discussed by the members of council at the meeting.

Andrekovich was not in attendance at Tuesday's meeting.

Following the meeting, Larry Chenoga, council president, said council would not release the amount of money that the borough is to pay Andrekovich.

After almost two-and-a-half years of investigations and legal action, Andrekovich, who was fired in November 2009, was approved to return to work Jan. 16 by a unanimous vote during the Jan. 9 council meeting.

Council fired Andrekovich Nov. 3, 2009, following the Aug. 15, 2009, death of Stephen Obbish, 48, 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 back pay.

Aug. 9, 2010, Punxsy Borough Council opted to continue its appeal of the Civil Service Commission’s ruling that reinstated Andrekovich's to his job.

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 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.

In October 2011, Andrekovich filed a lawsuit against the borough in 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 Bill Spencer, as well as Police Chief Tom Fedigan as defendants.

In his suit, Andrekovich sought reinstatement and damages in excess of $75,000.

Council did not discuss the lawsuit during Tuesday’s meeting.