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Former Pennsylvania Guards Settle Retaliation Suits for $675,000

Two former Pennsylvania jail guards settled their retaliation claims for $675,000.

Lieutenants John Barry and Genevieve Butczynski were employed by Pennsylvania's Luzerne County Prison. In October 2003 both guards made critical comments in a news story which detailed problems at the jail, including security lapses which resulted in the October 10, 2004 escape of homicide suspect Hugo Selenski.

After the article was published, the Luzerne County Prison Board took disciplinary action against both Lieutenants. Rather than risk termination and possible loss of her pension, Butczynski resigned in March 2004. In June, 2004, the Board voted to demote Barry to an entry-level position, prompting him to resign.

Both guards brought federal lawsuits, alleging that the Board took action against them in retaliation for reporting problems at the jail. The Board claimed that the disciplinary action was prompted by Barry's refusal to cooperate with an investigation into who leaked internal documents to the newspaper.

In October 2007, the board voted 4-1 to pay $675,000 to settle the guards' suits. Commissioner Greg Skrepenak voted against settling because he wanted to fire Barry and believes neither he nor the Board did anything wrong.

"To say we retaliated through the board when the fact is we were faced with making a decision is incorrect," said a defiant Skrepenak. "This is just the insurance company being scared."

Attorney Barry Dyller, who represented the Plaintiffs, sees it differently. "The insurance company had every right to be scared given what the evidence was," he said. "The amount of the settlement tells you what the defense felt. Insurance companies don't just give away money."

Under terms of the settlement, Barry received $500,000 and Butczynski received $175,000, according to Board President Wister Yuhas. Dyller said Barry received more money because he lost his pension, while Butczynski did not.


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