SCRANTON — A federal judge has dismissed two counts of a lawsuit filed by former Luzerne County Election Bureau Director Leonard Piazza against the county and County Manager Robert Lawton, but ruled that the bulk of Piazza’s case can move forward.
Piazza was terminated as Election Bureau Director on April 10, 2012, and filed a suit June 25, 2013. Piazza alleged six counts of violating his Constitutional rights: Two counts each involving “association”, “equal protection” and “wrongful termination” rights.
Specifically, Piazza argued he was fired for auditing election reports submitted by Walter Griffith, then Luzerne County Controller. Piazza argued that, while he had no political affiliation, Lawton was affiliated with Griffith, and that he was fired as a result of his inquiries. Piazza also noted that his office had the authority to inspect such documents, and that he had done so from time to time in the past with other candidates.
Lawton and the County filed a motion seeking dismissal of all counts. U.S. District Judge Richard Conaboy issued a ruling today that dismissed the two wrongful termination counts but allows the other four counts to move forward.
Conaboy ruled that Lawton and the County failed to prove Piazza “cannot prevail” in the first four counts. But he notes the county argues the wrongful termination counts must be dismissed “because it is barred by the Political Subdivision Tort Claims Act, which says that ‘no local agency shall be liable for any damages on account of any injury to a person or property caused by any act of the local agency or an employee thereof or any other person’,” with some exceptions.
Conaboy ruled that Piazza’s claims do not fall under those exceptions, and agreed with the county that the counts should be dismissed.