Club, PSSA back in court
SUNBURY - Despite a settlement reached May 25 in a civil lawsuit filed by the Pennsylvania State Sportsmen's Association (PSSA) against Valley Gun and Country Club in Elysburg, lawyers for both parties were back in court Tuesday arguing whether the case will proceed to trial.
During a 90-minute status conference before Northumberland County Judge William H. Wiest, Attorney Paul M. Perlstein of Doylestown claimed the gun club changed the language and conditions set forth in the agreement by requesting two easements to the property that would allow for egress and regress to certain areas of the land. He also claimed the gun club refused to sign a deed that would convey all but 3.471 acres of property sought by the association over to PSSA.
"They (gun club) drafted the agreement the way they wanted it," Perlstein told the court. "They changed the terms of the agreement. This isn't what my client agreed to. We didn't come up here to renegotiate the agreement. We'd like to get litigation going because we believe the agreement signed in 1995 is binding. They owe us the land and we plan to go to trial."
Attorney Helen L. Gemmill of Harrisburg, who represents Valley Gun and Country Club, argued that her client and PSSA settled the lawsuit May 25 and was willing to change some of the language in the agreement if necessary to satisfy PSSA. "We have settled the case with an enforceable agreement," she stated. "The gun club has a right to use certain areas of the property, but needs access to those areas. That's why we asked for the easements in the agreement. A deed has not been signed yet conveying part of the property over to PSSA, and the gun club plans to sell other parcels of the property."
Perlstein said he and PSSA remain frustrated over the ongoing legal battle that both parties thought was settled in May, but has a right to take the case to arbitration.
Gemmill said her client also is frustrated. "We want to follow the settlement agreement and I don't understand why the attorneys for both parties just don't sign the deed, get the exhibits in order and get this done," she said.
Gemmill, who compared the issue to selling a house, said the lawsuit settlement contains an arbitration clause that allows either party to contest it within a certain time period.
The attorney said she couldn't release details of the settlement.
Wiest, who also was under the impression the case had been settled, said he will issue an order in the near future requesting all exhibits be accessible to both attorneys. The order also will establish a schedule for future court proceedings in the case, including a pre-trial conference.
Last month, PSSA President Mike Schuler of Bradford told The News-Item both parties reached an agreement at the end of May that the PSAA would not pursue its lawsuit filed in March 2012 in Northumberland County Court and that PSSA and the gun club would meet this week to finalize the deal.
Schuler has been involved with the PSSA for about 25 years, but was not an officer at the time of the 1995 agreement. He is in his fourth year as president.
The agreement reportedly assured that the Pennsylvania State Shoot would remain on the grounds of the Valley Gun and Country Club.
The dispute centers on an agreement signed by the parties in 1995 in which the PSSA agreed to pay $550,000 annual payments to the club, in addition to paying property taxes, in exchange for club land in order to expand the shoot as needed over time. The state shoot is the second largest trapshooting event in the United States.
The suit, which claimed the club violated the 1995 agreement, was filed against Valley Gun and Country Club and its officers: President John S. Mushalko Jr., Vice President Edward D. Rakoskie, Secretary Lamar Richie, all of Elysburg, and Andrew Panko, of Catawissa. One condition the PSSA said the club violated was that it agreed not to accept introduction, election to or membership of any additional 'A' members after the date of the agreement.
Another condition stated that upon the death of the last of any of the existing 'A' members, operation and assets of the club would be turned over to the PSSA.
PSSA had threatened to leave the Elysburg site in the future, taking the state shoot and other smaller events held during the year to another part of the state, which would have been an economic hit to the area of about $1 million a year, according to official estimates.
Mushalko and Rakoskie attended the status conference, but reserved comment. PSSA Treasurer Tom Burkey, of Chambersburg, who also was in attendance, said PSSA owns approximately one third of the 174-acre site in Elysburg while the gun club owns the remainder of the property.