The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Warrior Run Region

March 3, 2014

About 70 pack Watsontown council meeting

— WATSONTOWN — It was a packed house again Monday night at the first Borough Council meeting since Chief Dennis Derr filed a federal lawsuit against the borough, Mayor Dave Hontz and former public works supervisor Scott Winters.

Derr and Hontz were both at the meeting, along with a standing-room-only crowd of about 70 people. However, tensions never materialized, and the meeting was adjourned after nine uneventful minutes. No members of the public commented during the meeting.

Derr, who resumed his duties Monday after a brief suspension, said in a complaint filed Thursday in U.S. Middle District Court that his constitutional rights of free speech without fear of retaliation and freedom of association were violated.

Hontz suspended Derr without pay Feb. 17, but the council on Feb. 24 voted unanimously to reinstate Derr, effective Monday.

The lawsuit was the latest move in an ongoing series of personnel issues in Watsontown that have played out over six months. He is seeking $75,000 and unspecified damages, according to court documents.

A visibly emotional Derr shook hands with a steady line of well-wishers following the meeting, where the phrase “welcome back” was heard multiple times.

Derr said he’s been overwhelmed by the community’s support.

“I just want to thank people for the support over the last two weeks,” he said.

Derr declined to comment on the specifics of the situation. Hontz also declined to give a report during the meeting.

The council adjourned to hold an executive session following the meeting to discuss “litigation,” according to council President Harriet Miller. She did not specify the topic of the session.

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