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May 7, 2014

Former Watsontown employee claims sexual harassment

WATSONTOWN — More lawsuits have been filed in the conflicts plaguing Watsontown, most recently by former public works supervisor Scott Winters against the borough and police Chief Dennis Derr.

Winters is seeking $50,000 plus court costs from each, alleging Derr defamed him; and the borough terminated his employment unjustly, violated his free speech rights and caused him “significant mental anguish, embarrassment (and) humiliation,” according to the lawsuits filed in Lycoming County Court.

Winters lives in Montoursville.

Watsontown Borough fired Winters on Feb. 11 after he made inflammatory Facebook posts on the “Watsontown borough EMA” page.

Derr filed lawsuits against Winters, the borough and Mayor Dave Hontz in February. Those complaints were settled last month, though the terms had not been released as of Wednesday.

In Winters’ suits, filed Wednesday, he alleges borough manager Edie Moser “sexually harassed” him, “making comments and touching him and making him feel uncomfortable.”

Moser could not be reached for comment Wednesday afternoon. However, no evidence of workplace harassment was found during an investigation by an outside law firm last fall, according to borough officials.

Winters’ lawsuit states that when he told Borough Council about that alleged sexual harassment, elected officials went from praising his work to harassing him and “making personal attacks against (Winters) in public meetings.”

Winters said he tried to contact Derr numerous times with his concerns, but was ignored and no reports or arrests were made.

In his lawsuit, Winters cited numerous instances when various members of Borough Council allegedly spread lies about him or even followed him.

In December, Winters said he was contacted by the borough’s personnel committee, which told him to “stop rehashing the past,” that he was written up in January for not following the borough chain of command and for “disrespectful and insolent” behavior.

The actions culminated with the Feb. 11 termination.

In the suit against Derr, Winters alleges the police chief publicly voiced concerns about Winters’ “potential for workplace violence” and published a memorandum with these concerns, with reckless and malicious disregard for the truth.

“The statements and implications are contained in the memorandum are wholly false,” the lawsuit states. “(Winters) has never had potential for workplace violence nor has he been ‘indicated’ as such.”

Winters said the claims have hurt his reputation and career.

Borough solicitor Ryan Tira could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

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