The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


June 13, 2014

Top cop's lawsuit to cost Watsontown $23G

— WATSONTOWN — Police Chief Dennis Derr’s federal lawsuit against Watsontown was settled for $23,875.20, according to agreement terms obtained through a right-to-know request.

The settlement will be paid by the borough’s insurance company, Summit Risk Services/Selective insurance Group.

Derr filed the lawsuit against the borough, Mayor David Hontz and a former employee, Scott Winters, who has since filed his own lawsuit against the borough and Derr.

The settlement stipulates that parties will not discuss the settlement publicly.

As of Friday morning, Borough Council President Harriet Miller had signed the agreement on behalf of the borough. Winters had signed but Hontz had not.

However, Hontz said Friday he did plan to sign the agreement, though he wished the suit played out in the public rather than behind closed doors and hashed out by the borough’s insurance company.

The borough voted to accept a settlement in the lawsuit, filed in February, after its June 2 meeting.

Derr claimed that his constitutional rights of free speech without fear of retaliation and freedom of association were violated when he was suspended without pay by Hontz on Feb. 17. Derr alleged his suspension was in retaliation for raising concerns that Winters, then public works supervisor, had the potential for workplace violence.

Derr was unanimously reinstated by the Borough Council after two weeks.

Meanwhile, Winters’ lawsuits continue against Watsontown and Derr, alleging the police chief defamed him and the borough terminated his employment unjustly, violated his free speech rights and caused him “significant mental anguish, embarrassment (and) humiliation.”

The suit against Watsontown was moved to federal court last week, while the suit against Derr remains in Lycoming County Court.

Winters is seeking at least $50,000 plus court costs.

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