Clausi and Bridy want Bowers, Best disqualified in Kaleta case
WILLIAMSPORT - Northumberland County and Commissioners Vinny Clausi and Stephen Bridy, defendants in a lawsuit filed by David F. Kaleta, of Shamokin, over issues related to the Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area (AOAA), have filed a motion to have Kaleta's attorneys, Timothy Bowers and Kymberly Best, disqualified from the case.
The county and the commissioners claim that during the time both Bowers and Best were employed by the county, they dealt with administrative and legal issues related to the proposed outdoor recreation area.
In another issue related to the case, a federal judge dismissed a motion filed by the county and Clausi and Bridy to have Kaleta's lawsuit thrown out. Meanwhile, the county has filed a new motion to dismiss Kaleta's amended complaint from Oct. 31.
In the new filing related to the lawyers' county employment, the defendants cited the time that both Bowers and Best were employed by Northumberland County, Best from Sept. 15, 2009, to March 18, 2011, and Bowers from April 29 to Sept. 3, 2010, with Bowers maintaining an attorney-client relationship with the county after that.
According to the county's filing, Best and Bowers were deeply involved with the planning and creation of the Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area (AOAA) in its early stages.
"Best, in her capacity as chief clerk, directly supervised Patrick Mack, director of planning for the Northumberland County Planning Department, the division responsible to oversee creation of the AOAA," the filing reads.
Clausi and Bridy also allege that Best authored correspondence to Kaleta, then president and founder of Habitat for Wildlife, stating the county would not renew or extend Habitat's lease of land included in the AOAA.
Bowers, the filing states, participated in an Oct. 19, 2010, meeting, conducting a presentation explaining why the general public did not have the right to use AOAA lands at will, and the basis for the county's right to restrict citizens' use of the land.
The commissioners claim that Best and Bowers are using confidential information they gleaned from the county as a result of their employment.
"The defendants believe it is a conflict of interest for (Best and Bowers) to have represented the interest of the County of Northumberland and its commissioners, including Vinny Clausi, regarding the AOAA, and now represent the plaintiff, David Kaleta, against the county is a suit regarding the same subject manner," the filing reads.
Robert G. Hanna Jr., of Harrisburg, the attorney representing the county and the commissioners, said in another document that he was informed by Best that Kaleta does not concur with the motion to disqualify.
In its ruling Wednesday on the county's original motion to dismiss the case, the court found that the motion was moot because it was filed in response to the original complaint, not the amended one that filed on Oct. 31. On Tuesday, the county filed a motion to dismiss the amended complaint.
Kaleta, who has been critical of the county plans to build the 6,500-acre recreational area on forest and abandoned coal lands in Coal, East Cameron, Mount Carmel, West Cameron and Zerbe townships, was informed in a Sept, 10 letter from Mack that his request to use the land for hunting and walking his dog had been denied after consideration by "two of three members of the board of commissioners," later determined to be Bridy and Clausi,
Kaleta, claiming the discussion to deny his permit is a violation of the Sunshine Act, won a preliminary injunction in Northumberland County Court.
With Kaleta alleging a violation of his First Amendment rights, the case was moved to federal court, but Hanna maintains that Kaleta doesn't state a viable claim in his complaint.