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Earley sues Wayne Independent; O’Day says Earley did nothing wrong

August 28, 2012

Wayne Earley, the former zoning officer of the Borough of Honesdale, has filed a lawsuit against The Wayne Independent (TWI) newspaper for defamation of character and other matters.

Earley is being represented by Honesdale attorney Mark Zimmer, a former Wayne County district attorney. The suit asks for $150,000 in punitive damages and an additional $50,000 from GateHouse Media, the paper’s parent company, for allowing the paper to target individuals like Earley and recklessly defame them.

Earley was fired from his job by the Honesdale Borough Council on March 12. The borough, which began its investigation into Earley’s alleged lack of proper licenses, cut short its inquiries with the state and fired him based on the information that appeared in the newspaper. The motion to fire him was made by councilman Bob Jennings. The borough did not communicate any further with the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry (DLI), which is the department that regulates licensure of municipal employees and sets forth the steps to be followed in dismissing an inspector.

In the lawsuit filed in the Court of Common Pleas of the 22nd Judicial District, Earley claims that, if he lacked at any time the DLI certification for any aspect of his work, the reason for the lack of certification was the failure of Honesdale Borough to pay the licensing fee and submit the qualifications on his behalf.

“I will comment on this after I have read the text of the lawsuit,” said Michael O’Day, who was on the borough council and was its chairman during part of Earley’s employment. “We had our solicitor look into his certification at the time. DLI came in and found nothing wrong after the allegations of Mr. Jennings. There is nothing in his employment file that has a negative declaration on his work performance. I can only say that Earley’s employment history, which predates me, is excellent and has nothing detrimental towards him.”

The lawsuit claims that TWI began publishing online “false or misleading articles, and editorials or opinion pieces regarding him.”

Some of the accusations in the lawsuit are that the paper gave the impression that Earley was criminally responsible for either the disappearance of or mishandling of Texas Township records, which was never proven; that he was responsible for the criminal act of breaking into his own office, also not proven; that he had committed a crime under the Pennsylvania Construction Code, not proven; that he was a drain on taxpayer money and was costing the borough more money than it collected; and that he was not qualified to do inspections and was incompetent in his job.