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Retired Indiana trooper claims he was falsely accused

Paul Peirce
| Thursday, Jan. 8, 2009

A retired state police sergeant from Indiana County claims in a federal lawsuit that he was falsely accused of sexual harassment by Homer City District Judge Susanne Steffee and his state police superiors violated his rights when they disciplined him.

Former Sgt. George F. Emigh is seeking unspecified damages, back pay and attorney fees from Steffee and several state police officials, including former state police commissioner Jeffrey B. Miller, Troop A Commander Capt. Harvey Cole Jr. and former Troop A crimes section commander Lt. James Fulmer.

Emigh's claims were made in a civil rights lawsuit filed last month in U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh. He was suspended in 2007 and subsequently retired after filing a grievance.

The 14-page lawsuit alleges the defendants denied Emigh "a deserved and earned honorable discharge, the opportunity to purchase his service revolver, and also to be rewarded his hat, both cherished PSP retirement customs."

Emigh's suit follows a lawsuit filed in November by Fulmer, who alleges he was unlawfully demoted for cooperating in the harassment investigation of Emigh. Fulmer sued Emigh, Miller, Cole and another former commander of Troop A, Frank Monaco, now chief of police in Plum.

Fulmer's civil rights complaint did not name the alleged harassment victim.

However, Emigh's complaint said Steffee lodged the harassment complaint "almost two years after the alleged incident shortly after (Emigh) issued a negative performance evaluation to Allison Jacobs, a trooper under his supervision, who was a good friend of Ms. Steffee's."

Jacobs also is listed as a defendant in Emigh's lawsuit.

Steffee yesterday said she had not seen the lawsuit and could not comment.

State police spokesman Jack Lewis in Harrisburg said "as a practice, state police do not comment on pending litigation."

Emigh said on June 6, 2006, he completed a performance review for Jacobs that identified five areas for "needs improvement."

Two days later, Emigh claims, Steffee complained to Fulmer about Emigh's alleged actions during an "off-duty party" in October 2004.

"Defendant Steffee had complained that over 1 and 1/2 years earlier, in October of 2004, that the plaintiff, while off-duty at the party, had inappropriately touched her in a sexually aggressive manner," the lawsuit states. Steffee alleged Emigh kissed her and "grabbed her buttocks."

Emigh denied the allegations.

"The actions of the defendants were vicious, vindictive and undertaken for the purpose of causing the plaintiff to suffer harm and great pain," the lawsuit alleges.

Emigh said a state police bureau of professional responsibility inquiry into the matter resulted in former Indiana District Attorney Robert Bell declining to prosecute, "believing the underlying allegations were not credible."

State police again interviewed Emigh in late 2006 and January 2007. Cole issued a disciplinary action report asking him whether he wanted to have his fate determined by court martial or arbitration. Emigh chose the arbitrator.

In June 2007, an arbitrator issued a disciplinary penalty against Emigh. He was suspended for 35 days and learned he would be transferred to Belle Vernon as a patrol sergeant.

Emigh retired Aug. 24, 2007.

Emigh alleges that his treatment during the investigation, the subsequent arbitration and grievance proceedings caused him "pain, suffering and humiliation."

The lawsuit was filed by attorney Don Bailey, of Harrisburg. Last spring, Bailey filed a $1 million wrongful death lawsuit against state police and the ex-wife of a Blairsville dentist who was murdered in his home in 2006.

Bailey filed the lawsuit on behalf of the heirs of Dr. John Yelenic, including cousin Mary Ann Clark of Indiana.

Another former state policeman from Indiana, Trooper Kevin Foley, of White, Indiana County, faces a trial this spring for the April 16, 2006 murder of Yelenic. Foley was living with Yelenic's ex-wife, Michele, at the time.

Clark's lawsuit, which was transferred from federal court in Harrisburg to Pittsburgh last year, accuses investigators of covering up for Foley.

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