By Joe Pinchot
Herald Staff Writer
Buhl Community Recreation Center denies claims made in a lawsuit that an employee slandered a member by accusing him of being a pedophile and kicking him out of the Sharon club.
A city policeman named in the lawsuit also denies the claims but argues that a state child protection law gives him immunity from the civil action.
Joseph Vance, 1314 Roemer Blvd., Farrell, charged Sharon Police Capt. Travis Martwinski, the club, and employee John Quirk with slander, and Martwinski with assault.
In the suit filed Jan. 23 in Mercer County Common Pleas Court, Vance said he was working out at the club at 28 N. Pine Ave. on Nov. 8 when a young man asked him about the proper use of a piece of equipment.
Later, while Vance was showering, Martwinski “stormed” into the shower area and “addressed” the conversation with the young man, the suit said.
Martwinski accused Vance of having sexual encounters with boys, including the boy who had asked about the equipment, the suit said.
Martwinski threatened to beat up Vance if he did not leave the club, the suit said.
Martwinski spoke with Quirk, the night supervisor, Quirk accused Vance of acting inappropriately with boys and threw him out of the club, the suit said.
The club filed an answer denying the allegations. Quirk “had no communications” with Martwinski, the club said, but Quirk learned about an “encounter” between Vance and Martwinski.
Quirk did not accuse Vance of pedophilia and did not throw him out of the club, although he “suggested” that Vance leave to avoid another encounter with Martwinski and invited him to discuss the events with club management the next day, the club said.
Quirk was discreet in talking to Vance and no one else overheard their discussion, refuting a contention levied by Vance.
Martwinski filed preliminary objections calling the complaint insufficient for failing to state exactly what slanderous comments Martwinski allegedly made to Vance.
Martwinski added that, since Vance acknowledged Martwinski’s police position, Martwinski is immune from the suit under the Pennsylvania Child Protective Services Act.
Martwinski also denied making the statements Vance attributed to him.
Vance objected to the preliminary objections on a technical issue, alleging Martwinski needed to claim immunity in a “new matter,” an affirmative defense filed in an answer to a suit, and not a preliminary objection.