The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

November 30, 2012

Northumberland Borough police officer claims pattern of harassment

By Rick Dandes
The Daily Item

— SUNBURY — Edward J. Cope, a Northumberland police officer, has sued the borough, the current and former mayors and several others in a wide-ranging federal lawsuit alleging a conspiracy of harassment against him that has lasted for years.

It is Cope’s third lawsuit against the borough in two years. It raises many of the same allegations, but adds new ones:

- The former mayor of Northumberland, Gretchen Brosius, allegedly abused her position to prevent Cope from opening a sub shop. Cope also is suing the present mayor, Len Zboray.

- Borough officials allegedly blamed him erroneously for being the person who leaked information to reporters that the former president of the Borough Council was going to be arrested for stealing from the borough.

- And the entire police department allegedly was ordered to appear in uniform for a campaign advertisement for then-political candidate Lynda Schlegel Culver.

Culver, state representative for the 108th District, recalls the photo, taken at the Point Township Police Department. “I remember asking if I could take the photo with the officers,” she recalled Thursday night. “But I have absolutely no knowledge of whether anyone was ordered to appear. I don’t even know if all the officers were there.”

Cope’s attorney filed a civil action complaint Thursday in U.S. District Court contending that his civil rights were violated, resulting in his unlawful demotion from the rank of detective. Cope claimed he was demoted to patrolman after “speaking out about matters of public concern as a citizen, not pursuant to his official duties.” In the document, Cope said Timothy A. Fink, Northumberland police chief, and then Brosius retaliated against him for speaking out.

Other defendants named in the complaint include the borough of Northumberland and Point Township, borough Councilman Greg Carl, Point Township Police Chief Joshua VanKirk and Northumberland police officer Cliff Kriner.

Zboray declined comment on Thursday.

Cope said that as a direct cause of the defendants’ actions, he has suffered — and will continue to suffer — embarrassment, humiliation, emotional distress, pain and suffering, and physical, psychological and financial harm.

Cope contends that the retaliation included false complaints that threatened his marriage, family and employment and interfered with his career advancement. He is seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.