Pennsylvania Fire Chief Demotion Okay Under Deal

WILKES-BARRE -- The city answered a lawsuit filed by former fire Chief Jay Delaney Thursday with a filing of its own, claiming that Delaneys suit has no merit and should be dismissed.

Delaney was replaced by current Chief Jacob Lisman shortly after the election of Mayor Tom Leighton.

Delaneys suit claimed he was forced back into the position of captain because he was a well-known and outspoken supporter of former Mayor Tom McGroarty, whom Leighton defeated, and Lisman was a well-known and outspoken supporter of Leighton.

In its filing, the city acknowledges Delaney exercised diligence as a firefighter, but challenged nearly all his other assertions, including his statement that under his tutelage the city achieved an unprecedented level of success in fire fighting and fire prevention.

But the crux of the issue is whether Delaney, once removed as chief, should have been placed in his most recent position, battalion chief/training officer, rather than demoted to captain.

The citys filing says Delaney has no right to demand a return to that post because the position is not addressed in the citys collective bargaining agreement with the firefighters.

City firefighters and police officers who rise to positions by political appointment can, by law, be demoted to the last position they held earned through the Civil Service system.

The city argues it had the right to demote Delaney to captain and disputes the claim that the move was politically motivated.

The suit questions the assertion that Delaneys support for McGroarty was well-known, as well as the idea that Lismans support for Leighton was well-known.

But even if it was, the citys filing states, political affiliation is an appropriate criteria for the position in question.

The city is asking that the suit be dismissed and that Delaney pay the citys attorney fees and expenses.

The city is represented by Sean P. McDonough, an attorney with Dougherty, Leventhal and Price, in Moosic.

Delaney has referred questions in the case to his attorney, Donna A. Walsh, who could not be reached for comment.