James Barberio claims he reported police officer asleep on job and has since faced retaliation

Last updated: August 30. 2013 12:08AM - 3092 Views
SHEENA DELAZIO sdelazio@timesleader.com

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WILKES-BARRE — The owner of a towing business has filed a lawsuit against Ashley borough alleging the police chief has retaliated against him, causing him to lose business and have his reputation put on the line.

James Barberio, owner of Ashley Automotive, filed the suit through his attorneys, Larry Kansky and Tom Marsilio, against the borough, borough council and police Chief John Bell. The suit alleges five counts, including breach of contract, and requests monetary damages.

According to the suit, Barberio reported to Bell in November 2012 that a police officer was sleeping on the job. After reporting the incident, the suit states, the relationship between Barberio, who had served as the borough’s tower for three years, and Bell deteriorated.

The suit states Bell penned two memos about Barberio and his business, alleging flawed towing and other incidents, as well as alleging Barberio is not properly licensed or registered. “I find that Ashley Auto cannot provide the necessary services and simply does not meet the needs of the Ashley Borough Police Department,” Bell wrote in one of the memos.

The suit states that as a result Bell instructed officers to use another towing company, causing a breach of contract with Barberio.

Kansky said Thursday that although there was no written contract between Barberio and the borough, there was clearly a verbal contract that is evidenced in letters and borough meetings.

The suit states Barberio is unable to seek other contracts due to the “perception that (Barberio) did something wrong to Ashley Borough” and that Barberio has suffered emotional distress and financial burdens. The suit claims a defamation of character count in regards to the memos penned by Bell, as well as an invasion of privacy.

Neither Mayor Richard Oravic nor council president Joseph Gorham could be reached for comment.

Bell said Thursday he cannot comment on the suit because he has not yet seen it.

In Bell’s memos, he says: He stopped using Barberio’s services because of improper towing procedures, that Barberio argued with Bell regarding an amber light on his vehicle and that Barberio allegedly took ownership information out of a vehicle that could have marred evidence..

A second memo written by Bell alleges, among other things, Barberio’s business is not licensed by the state and is not a licensed salvage dealer.

Kansky and Marsilio said Thursday their client is properly licensed in all aspects and that the borough ignored attempts by them to resolve the issues.

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