Could taxpayers be on the hook for more than $800,000 in legal fees?
This story reveals a dirty little secret that Wilkes-Barre Mayor Thomas Leighton and Wilkes-Barre Police Chief Gerard Dessoye don’t want you to know about. It involves their use of taxpayer money to defend against what may be the most defensible and righteous lawsuit I have seen in some time. Local entrepreneur Thom Greco has filed a lawsuit in regards to what I call a “shock and awe” campaign intended to close his nightclub, The Mines. Greco’s nightclub, with nary a single citation, was shut down in what looked like a military operation. Taking part were no fewer than 30 law enforcement agencies, three Liquor Control Board agents, a Wilkes-Barre Swat Team, eight police vehicles, one motorcycle, and two K-9 dogs. See if you aren’t outraged to know that taxpayer dollars are being used to defend these bullies and the “military style” use of their minions.
Let’s begin by noting that this nightclub had a perfect safety record. No violations, whatsoever. Defendants in the case are four King’s employees (some of whom may have retired), Chief Dessoye, Mayor Leighton, and others. According to the Greco lawsuit:
— The Mines’ patron demographic was approximately 30–40 % African-American and Hispanic.
— Wilkes-Barre Police Chief Gerard Dessoye advised The Mines’ owner Thom Greco that the clientele of the establishment was not a “good mix” with King’s College and that it was the “wrong crowd.”
— Father O’Hara of King’s College advised Greco that the clientele was not a “good mix” with King’s. He stated that he would attempt to have them shut down.
— Robert McGonicle (King’s VP of Student Affairs) and John McAndrew (King’s Dean of Students) sent an email inviting students to a forum on how to file LCB complaints against The Mines.
— Paul Lindenmuth (Chair of Criminal Justice and Sociology at King’s) falsely told students that there had been drug busts at The Mines and that the nightclub had lost its licenses.
— The city began harassment by falsifying police reports to make it appear as though crimes were being committed.
As mentioned earlier, employed in the sting were 30 law enforcement agencies, three Liquor Control Board agents, a Wilkes-Barre Swat Team, eight police vehicles, one motorcycle, and two K-9 dogs. A “shock and awe” campaign against The Mines was launched and it was shut down.
Information regarding the suit is listed below. One must question the fact that if Leighton and Dessoye are being sued individually . . . then why does the city’s general fund pay for all of the legal fees? The taxpayers pay for:
— The fine from the state for the theft of gas
— Leighton’s security system
— … and now legal fees that collectively could exceed $800,000?
Plaintiff: Thom Greco (owner of The Mines)
City of Wilkes-Barre (represented by Thomas Campenni and Donald Brobst of Rosenn, Jenkins & Greenwald) and individually …
— Mayor Thomas Leighton
— Police Chief Gerard Dessoye
— JJ Murphy (former city admin)
— Tony Thomas Jr. (former Wilkes-Barre councilman)
— Kathy Kane (current city controller and former Wilkes-Barre council chairperson)
— William Barrett (current Wilkes-Barre council chairperson)
— Rick Cronauer (current magistrate and former Wilkes-Barre councilperson)
—Michael Merritt (current Wilkes-Barre councilman and former Wilkes-Barre council chairperson)
Luzerne County (represented by Deborah Simon and John Dean of Elliot Greenleaf) and individually …
— Michael Savokinas (individually and as Luzerne County sheriff)
King’s College (represented by David Schwalm of Thomas, Thomas, & Hafer) and individually …
— Father Thomas J O’Hara
— Robert McGonicle
— Paul Lindenmuth
— John McAndrew
Summary of counts (against city)
Count 1 42 USC § 1983, 1985
Violation of 14th Amendment (Equal Protection under the law) bars selective enforcement and provides that business be treated as others similarly situated. The Mines was subject to far harsher law enforcement than other similar businesses (to say the least).
Count 2 42 USC § 1981, 1982
The Supreme Court has noted that these statutes protect an individual (Greco) who suffers retaliation by virtue of protecting others from racial discrimination (The Mines patrons).
Count 3 42 USC § 1985
What is alleged here is a conspiracy motivated by discrimination to deny equal protection.
Count 4 14th Amendment claims of alleged abuse of police power in order to destroy Plaintiff’s (Greco’s) business along with harassment and stigmatization of business.
Count 5 14th Amendment due process clause prohibits law enforcement from depriving “any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of the law.” It bars arbitrary and wrongful government actions. This deprivation of liberty rises to the level of “shocking the conscience.”
Count 6 Tortious (a civil wrong, ie, “sue-able”) interference with business relationships.
Count 7 Mr. Greco’s claim against Mayor Leighton and Chief Dessoye (in Count VI of memorandum).
A) Legal fees of $41,630 have been paid by the city through July 2013, according to public records.
— Plaintiff Thom Greco has stated, “We aren’t even 10% into this lawsuit.”
— Greco: “There are at least 60 depositions and 70 counts associated with what will be a jury trial.”
— If $41,630 is only 10% of the fees . . . then 100% would be $416,300
— Assuming the two county attorneys charge approximately the same amount as Rosenn, Jenkins & Greenwald, then the total would be $416,300 x 2, or $832,600