No. 1681 Philadelphia, 1980, Appeal from Order of the Court of Common Pleas, Civil Division, of Wyoming County, No. 80-175.
Brendan J. Vanston, Tunkhannock, for appellant.
Lawrence M. Ludwig, Scranton, for appellees.
Price, Wieand and Hoffman, JJ.
[ 288 Pa. Super. Page 421]
Are township supervisors subject to suit by a township policeman for allegedly defamatory statements made during a meeting of the board of supervisors at which the policeman's job performance was reviewed and criticized? The trial court held that the supervisors enjoyed immunity from an action in trespass for defamation and sustained preliminary objections in the nature of a demurrer. We agree and affirm.
According to the averments of plaintiff's complaint, at a public meeting of the Board of Supervisors of Tunkhannock Township on June 1, 1979, one of the supervisors, James Sands, directed the following statement to the plaintiff, Benjamin Zdaniewicz, who was then a township police officer.
[ 288 Pa. Super. Page 422]
"Well we are going to straighten up this police business. (Handing Zdaniewicz a police work schedule.) Well, you have seen this before. Why did you mess up the schedule by coming to work on Memorial Day? Do you want to quit the Township now? God damn it, Ben, you are in trouble. Why were you on duty on May 28?"
After plaintiff had responded, Sands continued:
"You are a liar. You had better have the names of the people who called you and asked you to work . . . you will not help (Patrolman) Ozzie Hudock. You will not work with the Borough Police and the State Police want nothing to do with you . . . I have gotten a lot of complaints, a lot of people have been bitching about you. Son of a bitch, Ben, you made a crazy u-turn on Route 307. You drove up on someone's lawn at Rivercrest for no reason. I don't want residents complaining to me when you picked up a couple of juveniles and turned them loose without doing anything about the damage they had done . . . You and me have had problems. I've been listening to you complain about everything. You did not want Hudock in, just your buddy. You are not going along with my ways, so there will be no more Chief. I am the boss. You will work a schedule just like Oz. Does that suit you, Ben, or do you want to quit the Township now?"
These words, alleged by plaintiff to be defamatory,*fn1 were spoken by Sands "intending to injure plaintiff and deprive him of his good name and reputation, and further wrongfully intending to cause plaintiff to be removed from his said employment." There is also a general averment that the "defamatory words and charges"*fn2 spoken by Sands were known to be untrue. The remaining defendants, George Russell and ...