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December 27, 2013

Deputies’ lawsuit goes to mediator

JOHNSTOWN — Attorneys for two former Bedford County sheriff’s deputies will meet with a mediator in an attempt to settle a lawsuit in which the deputies claim they were improperly fired.

U.S. District Judge Kim Gibson earlier this month sent the case for mediation after rejecting the sheriff’s request to dismiss the lawsuit filed in 2012 in U.S. District Court in Johnstown.

Former Bedford County deputies Charles E. Stuby and Lukas Berkey, both of Buffalo Mills, claim they were fired after Stuby ran against Sheriff Charwin Reichelderfer and lost by 3,000 votes in the November 2011 election.

Reichelderfer has said the two were fired for campaigning on county time.

Stuby ran as a Democrat against the Republican sheriff beginning in February 2011.

Berkey supported his run and displayed a yard sign, and his wife was treasurer for the campaign.

“Stuby never ran or approved any negative ads against Sheriff Reichelderfer,” the lawsuit said.

The plaintiffs said the campaign didn’t interfere with their job duties.

Both plaintiffs claim their First Amendment rights were violated.

They are asking the court to be reinstated to their positions with back pay and benefits. They also are asking the court to award them punitive and compensatory damages.

Stuby had been a deputy for 11 years and Berkey, also a Democrat, for nine.

“Mediation is a chance to try to settle the case,” attorney Christine P. Elzer said from Samuel J. Cordes & Associates offices in Pittsburgh. She and Cordes represent Berkey.

Federal Magistrate Judge Keith A. Pesto will act as mediator, but only as a neutral, third-party observer, Elzer said.

If the mediation is not successful, the lawsuit will be scheduled for trial after March 24, Gibson ruled.

Randy Griffith is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/photogriffer57.

 

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