Last updated: July 23. 2014 11:59PM - 2264 Views
By - jlynott@timesleader.com

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WILKES-BARRE — An attorney for the city asked a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit by an employee who said he was retaliated against for filing an earlier suit alleging insider trading in the sale of the former Old River Road Bakery and other properties.

The suit by Tyler Hammond, a city paramedic, said he was subjected to a misconduct hearing and a police investigation last year at the direction of Mayor Tom Leighton. Hammond said the investigation was looking into “misappropriation” of the likeness of another person on Facebook, namely Hammond allegedly “holding himself out” as the mayor.

In a status update of the case with the U.S. District Judge Malachy Mannion on July 11, attorney Matthew Carmody of the Elliot Greenleaf law firm said the criminal investigation into the Facebook page is still open.

Hammond’s attorney Cynthia Pollick of Pittston maintained he did not create the website, but even if he did it is protected by the First Amendment. She filed a notice of appeal of the property-related suit on July 2 in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania that was dismissed by Mannion last month.

Mannion also dismissed the suit alleging retaliation, but allowed Pollick to correct deficiencies and refile it. She filed the amended complaint on June 13.

Carmody, however, asked that it be dismissed because Hammond has not shown that he faced any “adverse employment action” such as a demotion, termination or loss of pay because he exercised his First Amendment rights.

“Courts have declined to find that an employer’s actions have adversely affected an employee’s exercise of his First Amendment rights where the employers’s alleged retaliation acts were criticism, false accusations or verbal reprimands,” Carmody said Monday in his filing.

Carmody also said that Hammond cannot show that his employment with the city was threatened and that he was threatened with criminal charges if he did not withdraw the property-related suit. Furthermore, the alleged retaliation occurred approximately four years after the suit was filed, negating any claim that there was a causal connection between the two, Carmody said.

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