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Former Police Chief Suing East Greenville in Federal Court
Written by Bradley Schlegel, Staff Writer

            A federal lawsuit filed by the former police chief of East Greenville Borough is moving forward. Late last month, the judge hearing a case filed by Andrew Skelton granted a partial motion by the defense to dismiss a portion of the amended complaint.

            However the Hon. Jan E. DuBois, a senior United States District judge for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, denied a separate motion, filed jointly seven months ago by the defense, to dismiss the suit involving former Mayor Keith Gerhart. In the decision issued June 30, DuBois ruled that Gerhart is not entitled to utilize qualified immunity, a doctrine utilized to shield elected officials from being sued, as a defense for some of his alleged actions.

            On Sept. 17, 2020, Skelton filed a civil action against the borough and Gerhart, both individually and in his capacity as mayor. The former police chief claims he was wrongfully terminated on May 13, 2019. Skelton alleges discrimination and retaliation based on his age, disability and free speech, according to the language of the court memorandum.

            DuBois ruled that qualified immunity is not available to shield officers from claims of discrimination under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act or violations of Pennsylvania's Whistleblower Law when defendants are sued in their individual capacities. He described the law on which hhe made this decision as "well settled."

            Skelton claims his First Amendment rights were violated and that he was punished as a whistleblower related to "Project X." He said he is only seeking justice and that the people of East Greenville "be made aware of the factual events that occurred regarding his dismissal as borough police chief."

            A Norristown law firm is representing the borough and Gerhart against all of the allegations in the matter, according to an email from Anthony R. Sherr, the managing partner of Sherr Law Group, LLC. The former mayor confirmed that he has not hired anyone to represent him individually in an email message received July 8.

            According to the legal document, Skelton has adequately alleged that Gerhart violated the plaintiff's constitutional rights. It states that the Amended Complaint includes sufficient allegations of "a pattern of antagonism coupled with timing to establish a causal link."

            Additionally, the plaintiff has alleged numerous retaliatory acts by Gerhart. Furthermore, Skelton alleges that Gerhart retaliated against him a number of times for expressing his opposition to "We the People," a political faction which advocated for the elimination of the Borough of East Greenville Police Department, including in December 2017, soon after being elected mayor.

            According to Dubois, Skelton has adequately alleged that Gerhart violated his First Amendment right to free speech. He wrote that prior to his election, "Gerhart expressed his disdain for [Skelton] … through a Facebook post."

According to the decision, the former mayor's "animus towards [plaintiff] was based on …his "expressing support for the BEGPD and opposition to the 'We the People' faction."

            The portion of the dismissal involves a claim by Skelton that the borough violated the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. However, the judge threw out the claim related to the federal law since East Greenville's police department has not received any federal funds.






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