ALLENTOWN, Pa. (CN) – A losing Democratic candidate for district attorney in Lehigh County claims in court that the state police commissioner, a Republican, violated his civil rights by “indicating” to a newspaper that he “did not get an honorable discharge as a State Trooper because of ‘serious misconduct.'”
Edward Koren sued State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan and his press spokeswoman Maria Finn, in Federal Court.
Although Koren claims that Finn “made statements to the Morning Call [newspaper] reporter which purported to be from plaintiff’s personnel file, but were in fact defamatory and false,” the complaint does not allege defamation.
It alleges civil rights violations (under 42 U.S.C. § 1983), privacy invasion, denial of due process and equal protection (Noonan), and willful misconduct (Finn).
Koren lost the 2011 race for district attorney to incumbent Jim Martin.
Koren claims in the complaint that “(a)s a result of the actions of defendants Finn and Noonan, plaintiff lost the economic opportunity to be district attorney.”
The complaint states: “The defendants, Finn and Noonan, made an intentional effort to support Martin and retaliate against plaintiff for exercising his First Amendment right to run for office by providing false information to the press and indicating to the press, and the citizens of Lehigh Valley that plaintiff did not get an honorable discharge as a state trooper because of ‘serious misconduct.'”
Koren’s complaint describes Noonan as a political appointee of Gov. Tom Corbett, and says Corbett “had a close personal relationship with incumbent District Attorney Jim Martin”.
Koren claims that Finn told a reporter that “the ‘vast majority’ of troopers retire with an honorable discharge. … Finn said an honorable discharge is generally given when a trooper ‘did not engage in serious misconduct while employed’ by state police.”
But Koren claims that when he retired in January 2005, Pennsylvania state police had no criteria for awarding honorable discharges. He says troopers received the distinctions arbitrarily, with no connection to their performance. And he claims that some troopers who were disciplined were discharged honorably.
Koren says he never was disciplined by the state police and was entitled to an honorable discharge after a 25-year long “distinguished career.”
Koren started as a trooper in 1978 and rose to the rank of lieutenant in charge of crime labs for Eastern Pennsylvania and commander of the Fogelsville barracks, according to the complaint.
He says he “never engaged in ‘serious misconduct’ and was never ever disciplined by the Pennsylvania State Police, and the statements by defendant Finn, acting on behalf of defendant Noonan, were patently and demonstrably false.”
“Defendant, Finn, acting on behalf of defendant, Noonan, gave the false information to retaliate against plaintiff for running against D.A. Jim Martin.
“The false information that defendant, Finn, acting on behalf of defendant, Noonan, [provided] appeared in the Allentown Morning Call and distributed to an excess of 100,000 households under the headline, ‘Ex-cop Koren lacks honorable discharge,'” the complaint states.
Koren says Finn and Noonan violated his right to privacy, and that Finn committed willful misconduct because “Despite actual knowledge that she wasn’t authorized to release personnel information, defendant [Finn] made statements to the Morning Call reporter which purported to be from plaintiff’s personnel file, but were in fact defamatory and false.”
Koren claims the state police conducted a secret review of his employment history, in which he was again denied an honorable discharge, in violation of his due process rights.
He compensatory and punitive damages.
He is represented by Richard Orloski.
Lehigh County is in southeastern Pennsylvania in the area known as the Lehigh Valley, with Allentown as its county seat.