Borough calls lawsuit over creek project a 'nuisance'
MOUNT CARMEL - A former borough couple filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday against Northumberland County, Mount Carmel Borough, county Judge Charles H. Saylor and nine other individuals or entities for taking a property by eminent domain in relation to the $14 million Shamokin Creek Flood Control project.
Thomas M. and Eileen B. Bolick, of 1377 Second St. Pike, Richboro, Bucks County, claim the defendants committed acts "under the color of the law" with the intent of depriving them of constitutional rights and federal laws between March 1 and March 16, 2012. They also claimed they retaliated against them.
Borough President Tony Matulewicz, who noted the borough had not yet been served with the lawsuit paperwork, called it a "nuisance lawsuit" that would require them to spend taxpayer money just to have it thrown out.
From the beginning of the flood control project, "Certain people tried to maximize their interest and money from day one. It's all about people getting money," he said. "It looks like they're displeased with the process."
Actions like this lawsuit are the reason why it took the project so long to start, Matulewicz added.
The Bolicks, who filed the suit on their own without an attorney, are seeking damages and injunctive relief against the county, the borough, Saylor, Northeast Industrial Services Corp., Mount Carmel; Northeast owner William R. Williams, Shamokin; Jeff Kurtz, of Jeff's Recycling, Paxinos; borough manager Edward T. Cuff III; Ballard Spahr transacting business, of Philadelphia; Philadelphia attorney Daniel McKenna; Ballard Spahr Andrews & Ingersoll LLP transacting business, of Philadelphia; Discover Financial Services, of Wilmington, Del.; and Discover Bank of Delaware, of New Castle, Del.
Their house at 224-226 N. Locust St., Mount Carmel, was improperly demolished and the property within was not accounted for, which violated the Bolicks' Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights, they claim.
They claim Saylor is not allowing them to assert due process, according to court documents.
Cuff said Friday the borough had not been served, and that he wasn't aware of any problems.
"As far as I'm aware, all the proper procedures (for acquiring the property) were done," he said.
He reserved further comment until the borough receives the lawsuit.
The flood control project has been more than 30 years in the making, hitting snag after snag until April 12 of last year when ground was broken. The project will keep nearly 100 homes along Water Street and surrounding streets safe from flooding.
Part of the holdup was when nine property owners, including the Bolicks, held out, causing the borough to declare eminent domain and shell out $34,833 in compensation. The Bolicks were approved for $9,000.
Their house was described as vacant in August 2011 when the borough approved the easements.
"The house was condemned for years. They did not maintain the property," Matulewicz said.
The Bolicks said they never received any "just compensation," but Cuff said the checks were issued to the property owners.
In November 2011, the borough entered into a contract with Northeast Industrial for demolition of the property at a cost of $9,489.
Matulewicz said items were stored inside the buildings, but that the owners were given opportunity to remove them. The project went through many checks and balances, he said, including by state agencies.
The county and others "attempted to conceal and cover up the illegal actions of the co-defendants by denying meaningful access to state court system," the Bolicks claim.
In another section of the lawsuit, they detail a credit card dispute in which they allege Saylor used his position to influence a higher court's decision. It is unclear how this issue relates to the flood control project.
On Sept. 12, 2013, a panel of the Superior Court affirmed a judgment Saylor made in the case, "continuing the ploy that Delaware Bank was the party name in the magistrate's court," Bolick alleges.
The court found that Bolick made a frivolous appeal and awarded fees to DFS, Discover Bank of Delaware and McKenna, who represented Discover.
The Bolicks could not be reached for comment Thursday or Friday.