WILKES-BARRE – Chief Public Defender Steven Greenwald said in court papers filed recently that his predecessor made his transition “difficult at best” and made allegations that Greenwald says border on defamatory.
The chief public defender position is one that attorney Al Flora wants back and he has two pending lawsuits involving the office.
Greenwald’s claims were made in an affidavit filed in May in reference to a federal lawsuit filed in April 2012 in which Flora seeks to be reappointed as the chief public defender.
Flora also filed a suit in April 2012 against the county and county Manager Robert Lawton, claiming the Public Defender’s Office was so underfunded and understaffed it could not provide adequate defense to indigent clients. The situation had become so dire, Flora argued, that he was compelled to limit the type of cases the office would accept. That case is currently pending in federal court.
Last week, attorneys for the county filed court papers seeking to have Flora’s lawsuit to regain his position thrown out, citing the lack of a “claim for which relief may be granted” against the county.
Flora alleged in his suit that he was terminated in retaliation for a previous lawsuit involving indigent defendants.
In Greenwald’s affidavit, he says that when his appointment as chief public defender became effective on April 29, he “became aware of facts and circumstances which made the transition to take office difficult at best.”
Greenwald, who was confirmed for the position by county council at an annual salary of $90,000 on April 9 after Flora was terminated, said the information he received includes that comments were made that office workers not cooperate with him and that some attorneys should start looking for other jobs.
“Said information is false and was and continues to be problematic for me in the performance of my duties,” Greenwald wrote.
He said allegations that he will not work to represent the interest of indigent defendants is “false, personally demeaning, with improper motive and borders on defamatory.”
Flora could not be reached for comment Tuesday. An attorney who represents Flora, Kimberly Borland, referred comment to Flora’s attorney from the American Civil Liberties Union, Mary Catherine Roper.
“We dispute Mr. Greenwald’s statement entirely,” she said. “The evidence will show what we have said all along – that Al Flora was replaced and then fired because of his efforts to protect the rights of indigent defendants in Luzerne County.”