The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

Local News

June 24, 2014

Township pays watchdog $102,000 to settle lawsuit

SOUTH PYMATUNING TOWNSHIP — Kurt D. Toth accepted $102,000 to settle a federal civil rights lawsuit he filed against South Pymatuning Township and a policeman.

Toth, a self-styled township watchdog, alleged his free-speech rights were violated when he was removed from a June 12, 2012, township supervisors’ meeting by patrolman Andreu Foriska.

He also charged Foriska with assault and battery, retaliation, malicious prosecution and abuse of process.

In the settlement contract, obtained by The Herald Monday in a Right-to-Know request, the township and Foriska state they do not admit any wrongdoing or liability. The settlement was made “solely to avoid the costs of litigation and at the request of their insurance company.”

The township likely will be asked to pay a $2,500 deductible, but has not yet been billed. The rest of the money was paid by the insurance carrier.

The settlement also buttons Toth’s lips. “If asked about this litigation by anyone other than his lawyer, accountant and/or spouse, (Toth) may say only that ‘the case has been dismissed and it has been resolved to my satisfaction,’ ” the contract states.

Toth, 47, of Orangeville Road, initially filed the suit 10 days after the meeting, and amended it twice.

Foriska charged Toth criminally with two counts of disorderly conduct and one count each of failing to disperse and disrupting a lawful meeting. Mercer County Common Pleas Court Judge Thomas R. Dobson dismissed the disorderly conduct and failure-to-disperse charges at an Aug. 13 nonjury trial. Dobson found Toth not guilty of the remaining count.

At the supervisors’ meeting, Toth questioned an appointment to the board of auditors. Toth was unhappy with the answer by then-supervisors’ Chairman Michael Nashtock and pressed him.

Nashtock said Toth’s posture was “somewhat threatening” and he became “concerned” that Toth would “use aggression” against him and the other two supervisors, but he never cut off Toth, told him he was out of line or asked Foriska to intervene.

Foriska testified Toth “badgered” and “harassed” the supervisors and concluded Toth’s conduct was “quickly escalating toward disorderly behavior.”

Foriska approached Toth and asked him to leave. He put a hand on Toth’s wrist and Toth pulled away.

Foriska pulled out his Taser, an electronic shocking device. He testified he pointed it at Toth while Toth claimed Foriska jammed it into his ribs.

Toth went outside and he and Foriska argued. A video recording of the encounter was posted on Facebook for a while.

Toth filed a previous federal civil suit against the township stemming from two previous criminal cases filed by township police, and the sides settled for $30,000.

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