HARRISBURG – The Commonwealth Court ruled for a former Towamencin fire marshal Kevin Pezzano suing the township, overruling an earlier decision by the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery
Pezzano was an employee of the township as a fire marshal, code enforcement officer and emergency management coordinator. In November
2012, he was told he was being terminated because the township no
longer needed a full-time fire marshal. Both parties entered a confidential
employee separation agreement on Jan. 14, 2013.
The confidentiality agreement stipulated that all parties agreed to refrain from disparaging each other. But two days
later, Towamencin supervisors David Mosesso and Harold Wilson gave statements to the media
saying that Pezzano was "dismissed for cause."
Because of this, Pezzano and
his wife filed a lawsuit against Mosesso and Wilson alleging defamation,
invasion of privacy, fraud and loss of consortium, while asserting a breach of contract claim against the township.
Pezzano says that the
defendants had no intention of following the confidentiality agreement,
considering how quickly they went to the media to give a statement. Mosesso,
Wilson and the township all filed preliminary objections.
However, his claims were dismissed, leading him to file another breach of contract claim against the township. The trial court found that the township did not "disparage" Pezzano to the media.
Pezzano appealed, saying the township could only act through its officers.
The Commonwealth Court agreed with his argument.
should not be read as a limitation of a public official’s rights of free speech or
his/her duty to keep the electorate informed," it wrote.
"Rather, a Township is liable for its
contractual obligations and... vicariously liable for the
breach of such obligations by its agents."