An Ambridge man is a little richer for receiving a disorderly conduct citation last year for flipping his middle finger at Sewickley's fire chief.

The borough's insurance company has agreed to pay the man, David R. Dickinson, and his lawyer, Harlan Stone, $9,000 to settle the federal lawsuit Dickinson brought in April against Sewickley and police Officer Robert McNatt that claimed the citation violated his rights.

The settlement was reached after a conference a few months back with Senior U.S. District Judge Alan Bloch.

"They came up with a number that the insurance company could live with," attorney Paul Krepps, who represented the borough, said yesterday.

Stone refused to discuss the settlement. But he said flipping the bird at the fire chief was protected free speech because it was not meant as a threat or to incite violence.

"In this case it was clear it was meant to insult the recipient," he said.

That is OK, constitutionally speaking.

"I really regret that it had happened at all," said Sewickley Council President Don Kipke. "It didn't have to come to this."

Dickinson, who is in his 30s, said he and his wife, Katie, were headed for the baptism of Dickinson's nephew at a house on Locust Street in Sewickley on Aug. 16 and were afraid they'd be late.

As they approached the business district, they got stuck in a traffic jam on Beaver Street that Dickinson said was caused by Fire Chief Jeff Neff and McNatt. He said he was behind McNatt's cruiser and saw him talking to Neff, who was in the opposite lane in his car.

It's not clear what they were discussing, but Kipke said it was important borough business and not something frivolous.

At any rate, from the passenger seat of their car, Katie Dickinson hit the horn and traffic started to move. As Dickinson drove by Neff's car, "frustrated by the delay," he gave the chief the finger.

"The gesture, albeit insulting, had no sexual meaning, did not appeal to anyone's prurient interest, and did not create a public disturbance or breach of the peace," wrote Stone in his initial complaint.


http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/04287/395063.stm