BENSALEM A federal judge said Tuesday that Bensalem's mayor and police chief had not invoked the Fifth Amendment to avoid answering questions stemming from a lawsuit against them - and he demanded a written explanation from the attorney who claimed that they did.

U.S. District Judge Michael M. Baylson said the lawyer, Brian K. Wiley, "acted improperly" when he wrote in a court filing early this year that Mayor Joseph DiGirolamo and head of police Fred Harran, as well as two other township officials, invoked their right against self-incrimination and declined to answer questions related to a lawsuit brought by former township Fire Chief David Jerri Sr.

During a hearing on the matter, Baylson said that Wiley may have incorrectly used language from a previous court filing to jump to that conclusion, and that Wiley "had reason to know that was not true."

Wiley was not in court Tuesday, but Baylson - who said he initially believed Wiley's claim - ordered that he file an affidavit explaining his behavior within 10 days.

Christopher Garrell, who represented Jerri on Tuesday, said he was not with the firm when Wiley made the claim, and could not comment.

Harran, who was in court Tuesday, called the case "a big joke."

"They're grasping at straws because they have no case," he said.

The suit was filed last year by Jerri and his son, David Jr., a former township firefighter.

In it, the Jerris claim that they were harassed and improperly fired because they were outspoken critics of township administrators including DiGirolamo, Harran, deputy director of public safety Patrick Ponticelli, and township Detective John Monaghan. The Jerris are seeking damages and their jobs back.

Garrell said that the Jerris "are looking forward to their day in court."

A trial is scheduled to begin next month.