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Trooper, wife file lawsuit against new Butler commissioner

A state trooper and his wife have filed a lawsuit accusing Butler County Commissioner James Eckstein of spreading false stories that they covered up the drunken- driving charge of another commissioner.

Trooper Scott Altman and wife Lori, the county's personnel director, filed the suit in county court on Thursday. They seek at least $35,000 in damages, plus legal fees.

The lawsuit claims that Eckstein repeatedly said that Scott Altman -- a 21-year veteran of the state police -- intervened to clear Commissioner Dale Pinkerton after Pinkerton was stopped for drunken driving and that Lori Altman was rewarded for her husband's assistance with a 20 percent raise.

Eckstein did not return phone calls on Friday.

Lt. Eric Hermick, head of the state police Butler barracks, said there's no indication that Eckstein's claims about the Altmans are true. Scott Altman remains on duty.

"The initial investigation shows that this never happened. If there was evidence that false charges were made to a law enforcement officer, then we would pursue charges against someone for that," Hermick said.

County records show that Lori Altman received a raise from about $29 an hour to $35 an hour on Dec. 7. Pinkerton, a Republican, voted to approve the increase.

Eckstein, a Democrat who took office in January, said he opposed the raise because it was too high. The commissioners who voted for it said they considered her underpaid.

Pinkerton filed a similar defamation lawsuit against Eckstein this month. In that lawsuit, Pinkerton said Eckstein grandstands for cameras and that after becoming commissioner in January, he "abused his public forum to castigate, embarrass and assault the dignity of employees of Butler County."

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