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Pennsylvania police officer sues chief, city manager after being denied promotions over military service

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Johnstown police cruiser. Credit: Facebook.

Dave Sutor
The Tribune-Democrat, Johnstown, Pa.

A former Johnstown Police Department officer and detective has filed a lawsuit against the city, former Chief Craig Foust and former City Manager Melissa Komar, alleging he was denied promotional opportunities because of his military service.

There are three counts in which Scott Haymaker contends all three defendants:

• Violated the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 by denying him promotional opportunities to become captain or chief because of his military obligations

• Retaliated against him because of his actions to protect his rights under USERRA and / or because of his participation in proceedings or investigations

• Retaliated against him after he spoke out against alleged wrongdoing within the JPD, which he considered his First Amendment right.

In another count, he also alleges Komar and Foust caused him embarrassment, humiliation, emotional distress and damage to his reputation by discriminating against him because of his military service, for which he is asking the two defendants be held jointly and severally liable for damages in excess of $50,000.

Haymaker is asking for a jury trial.

“He’s taking this step because he was and is a member of the U.S. Army Guard component, and, in that capacity, he served his country in deployments where he put himself in danger,” one of Haymaker’s attorneys, Timothy O’Brien, said. “And, because of that deployment, it’s a contention of the lawsuit that his employment was adversely affected.”

Neither Komar nor Foust could immediately be reached for comment.

The complaint was filed in federal court on Tuesday.

City officials had not received official notification as of early Thursday afternoon, according to City Manager George Hayfield.

“The fact is, we haven’t been served yet,” Hayfield said. “We realize there is something coming. But, even if there was anything, I couldn’t comment any way.”

Haymaker, who joined the Army in 1988 and Pennsylvania National Guard in 1996, was deployed to Bosnia (twice), Iraq and Germany, along with spending time as a criminal analyst for the National Guard Counterdrug Program.

He was hired as a JPD patrol officer in 1997 and became a detective in 2004.

Following a military leave in 2011, he was involuntarily transferred from the department’s Bureau of Criminal Investigations back to patrol, which he considered a demotion because of diminished opportunities for overtime and loss of a take-home vehicle. He filed a complaint and was then promoted to patrol sergeant, according to the complaint.

Haymaker rejoined the Bureau of Criminal Investigations in the fall of 2011, contingent on surrendering his sergeant rank.

Then, in 2014, he was moved from the detective bureau back to patrol and, around the same time, suspended for purportedly not following the chain of command.

He filed a USERRA complaint, regarding the transfer, that was eventually settled in December 2016

He was promoted to sergeant in September 2016.

Haymaker took a captains examination, ranking first among the candidates, according to the complaint, but did not receive either of the two captain positions that became open in 2016.

Haymaker later applied for the chief position when it opened in 2017. He did not receive an interview.

He then retired from the JPD in April 2017.

Haymaker alleges Foust repeatedly expressed frustration with him due to the plaintiff’s military affiliation, complained his deployments adversely affected the department and made a statement that he could be a police officer or soldier, but not both.

Dave Sutor is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at (814) 532-5056. Follow him on Twitter @Dave_Sutor.

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©2018 The Tribune-Democrat (Johnstown, Pa.)

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