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Former E. Penn official unhappy

Published February 22. 2011 05:00PM

Guy Barry is unhappy that an out-of-court insurance settlement was reached in a lawsuit in which he is a defendant.

Barry, a former member of the East Penn Township supervisors, owns his own plumbing business. He feels the suit tarnished his personal reputation and he was never given a chance to unveil the facts.

He said he was never subpoenaed regarding the lawsuit. He never was asked to give a deposition. He doesn't even know why he was named a defendant in the suit, he says.

The lawsuit was filed on Oct. 7, 2009 by former police officer Maria Burrows, whom, the suit said, "has been harmed by the sex-based harassment, sex-based discrimination and retaliatory practices as well as other improper conduct by the defendants."

Burrows could not be reached for comment.

The defendants were East Penn Township Police Department, Chief Rodger Gehring, Randy Pfeiffer, and Barry. Pfeiffer, a current supervisor, and Barry were both supervisors at the time of the allegations.

The settlement agreement states none of the parties are permitted to discuss or reveal the details of the settlement.

Gehring was accused in the suit of sexually harassing Burrows, while Pfeiffer and Barry were alleged to have not taken the proper disciplinary actions to stop it.

Barry alluded the settlement was much less than what Burrows had sought.

"If what she was asking for is the world, she eventually settled for a park bench," he said.

He added, "Randy and I wanted to go to court."

He said mediation had occurred "and Randy and I were not allowed to be there."

He said the lawyer representing the township advised that it was "easier to settle out of court."

Often out-of-court settlements are reached in an effort to avoid going to trial, which is more costly to both parties.

The problem, said Barry, is that his name has been tarnished by being named a defendant in the suit. He said he knows of at least one customer who canceled a business contract with him because of it.

He said he's frustrated because he's named a defendant but wasn't allowed to agree on the settlement.

"I didn't sign a single paper in this case," he said.

A letter shown to the TIMES NEWS by Barry from the legal counsel, Mayers, Mennies & Sherr LLP of Blue Bell, dated Dec. 17, 2009, states, "It is curious that Plaintiff chose to only individually sue two of the supervisors, Barry and Pfeiffer, especially when it certainly appears that Bill Schwab was (at the time) the direct supervisor of Gehring."

Barry said, "Randy and I were named and we had nothing to do with any of this. And, their settlement says we can't talk about any of this."

The lawsuit filed by Burrows identifies Barry and Pfeiffer as "acting in (Gehring's) supervisory and personal capacity."

Barry said that this is inaccurate; that Schwab was the supervisor in charge of the police department at the time.

The involvement of Barry and Pfeiffer, according to the suit, was that they "consistently refused to take any action to prevent further harassment" of Burrow.

Barry said Burrows had indicated to him and Pfeiffer that she was resigning as a police officer because of the alleged harassment. He said Burrows was asked by them to put in writing the specific allegations so that appropriate action could occur, but Burrows declined.

He said that shortly thereafter, the supervisors were informed at a meeting that Gehring was resigning. Resignations of both Gehring and Burrows were accepted, then.

The suit alleges by Burrows that:

• Gehring would question her "about her sexual positions."

• Gehring would inform her "about his sexual positions."

• Gehring would talk to her "about his wife's breast implants."

• Gehring would isolate her "in a patrol car or other area away from other police officers and touch her while talking about sexual positions."

It is also alleged in the suit that Gehring had a meeting with the supervisors about Burrows' complaints of sexual harassment against him and the police chief retaliated against her "by informing her to resign or she would be fired and he would circulate false rumors about her that she was soliciting sex while on duty."

In December 2009, Mayers, Mennies & Sherr sought to have Barry and Pfeiffer dismissed from the case. That letter, of which the TIMES NEWS has a copy, states, that "Schwab was the chief liaison with the police and the board of supervisors. It also seems apparent that Schwab sought to shield Gehring from the scrutiny of the other supervisors including Pfeiffer and Barry. Mr. Pfeiffer was critical of Gehring's performance as the police chief and had called several executive sessions to discuss the situation involving Gehring."

It adds, "In a potential explanation for why Pfeiffer and Barry were singled out as individual defendants, both indicated that they had contact with Ms. Burrows with respect to her handing in a letter of resignation. In my estimation, both Mr. Pfeiffer and Mr. Barry, who at the time was the chairman of the board of supervisors, handled their contact with Ms. Burrows over her resignation extremely admirably and certainly do not appear to have violated any of her rights."

Barry said he doesn't understand how settlement can occur without getting the named parties together, or even consulting with them.

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