Federal judge denies motion to reconsider Jefferson Hills K-9 suit

| Friday, Feb. 17, 2012

A U.S. District Court judge has denied a motion to reconsider a Jefferson Hills police officer's civil case against the borough, its council and former police chief.

The case in which Jefferson Hills officer Chris Gawlas challenged the behavior and motives of borough officials as they handled the elimination of his K-9 program was dismissed in January. A motion to reconsider was filed promptly by the officer's legal representation.

U.S. District Judge Terrence F. McVerry denied that motion Tuesday.

The plaintiff's counsel, Fred C. Jug Jr., who is handling the case along with fellow attorney Rob Bootay, declined to speak on matters involving ongoing litigation. Jug did not detail what legal avenues his client will take.

Gawlas has 30 days to appeal McVerry's denial of the motion to reconsider. As noted in the decision, McVerry's denial does not hinder Gawlas' ability to pursue claims in the state court system.

Jefferson Hills council president Chris King said borough officials are pleased with the U.S. District Court's decision for the third time in this case.

"Jug and Bootay are clearly out of their league going against Cipriani & Werner," King said. "They have not done their homework, prepared poor arguments and relied on information from unreliable sources. This is discouraging coming from the solicitor and former council member of our neighboring community of Pleasant Hills."

Gawlas' complaint alleged his First and Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated in the events that unfolded when his K-9 program was dissolved in December 2010 with its exclusion from the 2011 budget.

Gawlas took issue with being the only borough officer subjected to a Corporate Security and Investigations Inc. study.

Council had approved the CSI study in response to the public's outcry in defense of Gawlas and his partner Fritz as a third-party investigation into the effectiveness of the borough's K-9 program.

When Jefferson Hills council approved the borough's 2011 budget, that spending plan removed the police department line item for the K-9 unit Gawlas had headed for nearly 15 years.

By January's meeting last year, dozens of borough residents donning "Save K-9 Fritz" T-shirts were approaching council demanding an explanation for the program's elimination and sharing their support for Gawlas and his partner pup.

In early 2011, council heard each month from Gawlas, family members and supporters who spoke of Fritz's work as invaluable to Jefferson Hills police and neighboring departments.

Gawlas claimed that then-acting police Chief Jack Maple set out to eliminate the program in September 2010 because of the officer's ties to unnamed council members and other appointed officials.

Gawlas also said he was humiliated by the CSI report following the study that he said included "false and malicious private employment information."

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