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Judge gives Monroeville police chief until Jan. 8 to file consolidated lawsuit

Emily Balser
| Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2015, 9:00 p.m.

Monroeville police Chief Doug Cole has until Jan. 8 to file a new lawsuit against the municipality and several former officials after U.S. District Judge Nora Barry Fischer ruled last week that the two lawsuits he had previously filed must be consolidated.

“Essentially, her order wipes out the original complaints,” said attorney Suzanne Merrick, who represents the defendants. “She has directed him to file a new complaint.”

The first of the original complaints named Monroeville as a defendant, along with former council members Diane Allison, Lois Drumheller, Bernhard Erb and Clarence Ramsey.

The other complaint named Allison; Linda Moy, a municipal secretary; Steven Pascarella, who replaced Cole as chief but later took medical leave; and Lynette McKinney, former municipal manager.

The judge ordered Cole to list all the defendants together when he files a new complaint in U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh.

Cole accuses the defendants of firing him in 2013 to retaliate against him because he supported their political opponents.

Cole's attorney, Tim O'Brien, said it makes sense to combine the two complaints because they deal with the same issues.

“The facts are all of the (same) cloth in the sense that they all deal with those adverse personnel actions,” he said. “And that's what the lawsuits speak to, to achieve a remedy for Chief Cole for what he had to go through.”

O'Brien said he and Cole intend to file the new lawsuit by the Jan. 8 deadline.

The judge also asked that when he files the new lawsuit, Cole consider part of his previous complaint against Monroeville, Allison, Drumheller, Erb and Ramsey that the defendants asked be dismissed earlier this month.

The defendants filed a motion to dismiss Cole's claim that he is protected under the First Amendment's Petition Clause in relation to his filing of a grievance about his demotion and termination as chief.

O'Brien said he and Cole will address the First Amendment question in the new filing, but still intend to include it in some capacity. He said they still believe Cole is protected under the First Amendment.

“We think that what Chief Cole went through was something that no employee should have to experience, particularly someone who had been as dedicated and competent a public servant as Chief Cole has been over the years,” O'Brien said.

Emily Balser is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-871-2369 or ebalser@tribweb.com.

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