Aug. 17--An insurance company refused to defend Scranton or pay any damages related to a lawsuit a contractor filed against the former head of the city's Licensing, Inspections and Permits Department because the official was accused of intentionally retaliating against the man.
Indian Harbor Insurance Co. said allegations Theodore Brunelle lodged against Patrick Hinton, who was terminated Monday, fell within an exception in the city's contract that excludes coverage for willful misconduct, according to a copy of the denial letter.
"The plaintiff alleges in every count that the conduct of the defendants was purposeful, intentional, willful, malicious and with 'evil intent,' or motivated by a desire to cause the plaintiff harm," the letter says. "Because such conduct could not be within the scope of an insured's legitimate duties, there can be no coverage for this matter."
The city recently settled Brunelle's suit for $245,000. The money, as well as attorneys fees to defend the case, came from the general fund. The amount of the legal fees was not immediately available Friday.
The lawsuit, which named Hinton and the city, alleged Hinton revoked Brunelle's plumbing, electrical and other licenses without giving him a chance to challenge the action. He did so, it alleged, because he had personal animus for Brunelle's brother, Alexander Brunelle, who filed a separate federal lawsuit claiming former code enforcement employee Patricia Jennings Fowler unfairly targeted his rental properties because she disliked him. That lawsuit, which alleged Hinton failed to halt the conduct, remains pending.
Contacted Friday, Hinton denied he retaliated against Theodore Brunelle.
"It's total nonsense," Hinton said. "For him to say I retaliated against him because I didn't like Alex, I did not know who Alex is. I only know him by name and that he owns several rental properties."
Hinton headed the licensing department since 2014. He was terminated Monday by Mayor Wayne Evans, after Hinton rejected the mayor's offer to switch to director of the Parks and Recreation Department.
The termination came about six weeks after former mayor Bill Courtright, who appointed Hinton to the post, pleaded guilty to bribery, extortion and conspiracy charges.
Prosecutors say Courtright demanded money from numerous companies that did business with the city, including a real estate developer who obtained a license for a contractor despite lacking required reference letters. The Times-Tribune has identified the developer as Arthur Russo, who was working with the FBI and isn't facing charges.
Hinton, who is not charged with any crime, on Wednesday acknowledged he issued the license at Courtright's direction, but said he revoked it several months later. He believes Evans fired him for political and personal reasons, but Evans has denied that.
Hinton stood by his decision to revoke Brunelle's licenses, saying Brunelle had a history of not complying with city regulations. Hinton said he was not consulted about the settlement. He said he does not know enough about the issues involved to say whether he supports the decision.
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