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Westmoreland official's newspaper comment lead to lawsuit

| Friday, Sept. 6, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

A defamation lawsuit was filed on Thursday against Westmoreland County Register of Wills Michael Ginsburg for comments he made about a department employee to a Tribune-Review reporter, according to the suit.

The statements were published in an Aug. 27 article in response to a sexual harassment complaint that deputy clerk Katie Pecarchik of Jeannette filed on Aug. 26 against Ginsburg, his chief deputy and the county.

“The statements made by (Ginsburg) were made with malice and with the specific intent to harm (Pecarchik) and her reputation,” according to the suit filed in Westmoreland County court.

Her attorney, David Millstein, said on Thursday that Pecarchik didn't bring either of the actions “looking for money.”

“She wants to stand up for herself and not be victimized,” Millstein said.

Pecarchik is seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages in the suit. Ginsburg declined to comment Thursday.

In the Tribune-Review article, Ginsburg referred to an alleged discipline problem with Pecarchik.

Millstein said he wrote Ginsburg a letter after the article's publication asking him to publicly retract the statements or apologize. When Ginsburg didn't, the lawsuit was filed, Millstein said.

Ginsburg referred questions about the litigation to attorney Scott Avolio, who said no determination has been made if Ginsburg is being represented by his office.

Pecarchik has been a deputy clerk in the office since 2003. She claims in the sexual harassment complaint that Ginsburg and deputy register Charles Humberger inappropriately touched her and made offensive sexual remarks and derogatory statements about Catholics, homosexuals and African Americans. The allegations were reported to the county in July.

Ginsburg and Humberger have denied the allegations.

Pecarchik is on sick leave as a result of the harassment, her attorney said. The allegations were filed with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and are a precursor to a state or federal lawsuit, either of which can be filed following an investigation of the allegations by the agencies.

Ginsburg, a first-term Republican from Penn Township, is responsible for the hiring and firing of staff in his office.

Twelve female staffers work in the register's office.

Renatta Signorini is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-837-5374 or rsignorini@tribweb.com.

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