News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

November 21, 2007

Political backlash suit names city officials

Police hopeful alleges retaliation from Burke, Ralston, merit commission

TERRE HAUTE — The brother of a city police officer has filed a lawsuit claiming the Terre Haute Police Merit Commission dropped him from its candidate hire list because of his association with police officers who politically oppose Mayor Kevin Burke.

Paul Czupryn, 27, filed the lawsuit Nov. 14, alleging retaliation and seeking compensatory and punitive damages.

The complaint names Burke, individually and as mayor; George Ralston, individually and as chief of police of the Terre Haute Police Department; the Merit Commission, and the three current members of the commission.

Czupryn is the brother of Jason Czupryn (pronounced ZOO-prin), who has been a member of the Police Department since the fall of 2000. Jason Czupryn openly supported mayoral candidate James Horrall during the municipal primary election. In addition, Jason Czupryn provided an unfavorable reference for Chief Ralston’s son, Philip, who also applied to the THPD and eventually was hired, according to Paul Czupryn.

The complaint arose after Paul Czupryn was removed from the Merit Commission’s hire list last month. Czupryn had applied in February 2006 to the THPD to be employed as a patrolman, and was placed near the top of a waiting list of applicants in September 2006.

After a meeting of the Merit Commission on Oct. 17, Paul Czupryn was removed from the list.

According to Czupryn, who said he earned the third-highest written test score out of 300 applicants, had the fastest mile and a half on the physical test and is “one of very few who has a four-year college degree,” the only possible reason for his removal from the list is political backlash.

Mark Hassler, attorney for the Merit Commission, said he doesn’t think Czupryn’s suit has any merit.

“It’s kind of difficult to ascertain all the different complaints he’s making,” Hassler said.

Czupryn’s complaint alleges, among other things, that the Oct. 17 merit commission meeting was conducted in violation of Indiana’s Open Door Law. An independent finding of the state public access counselor determined the meeting did not violate the law, but Czupryn’s attorney, Eric Frey, said the finding by the public access counselor was based on false information provided to them by the Merit Commission.

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