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Former Old Forge Cop Sues Borough, Claims Rights Violated, Discrimination

July 2, 2008

By Erin L. Nissley, The Times-Tribune, Scranton, Pa.

Jul. 2–A former Old Forge police officer has filed a federal lawsuit against the borough claiming his constitutional rights were violated because he has not been rehired by the department.

The federal lawsuit filed Monday by Michael B. Keslosky is the latest salvo in a long-standing feud with the borough over his employment. He was first hired in 1979 as a police officer for Old Forge, but has not worked a shift since 1998.

The borough has argued that he cannot be rehired as a police officer because he lacks certification required by the state.

But Mr. Keslosky claims he has been blocked from obtaining the necessary classes to renew his police certification, and that he’s a victim of discrimination.

“This has to do with my religion, my veteran status,” Mr. Keslosky said Tuesday. “It’s because I continue to complain about what’s improper” in the borough and its police force, the alleged mishandling of the borough’s police pension funds.

Mr. Keslosky, who was honorably discharged from the Army National Guard in 2004, claims elected officials had a “vendetta” against him and intentionally caused the lapse in his certification.

He also alleges that he was discriminated against because he was Russian Orthodox and claims co-workers and superiors used ethnic slurs when referring to him.

Old Forge borough officials have not yet been served with a copy of the lawsuit. Even so, former Old Forge Mayor Anthony Torquato said the borough’s stance has always been the same.

“Keslosky did not hold the certification to be a police officer,” he said. “No matter what his arguments are, whether someone wanted to hire him or not, it all comes down to that.”

The suit — which is asking for compensatory damages, back pay, front pay, attorneys fees and letters of good reference — names as defendants Mr. Torquato, Old Forge Borough, Old Forge Police Department and former Borough Council members David Scarnato, Alan Heyen and Shirley Helbing.

It also names Old Forge Police Chief Larry Semenza, the police officers association, the borough’s Civil Service Commission and its chairman, James Minella.

Contact the writer: enissley@timesshamrock.com

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