County will appeal Saylor's ruling; Clausi, Bridy further criticize judge
SUNBURY - Northumberland County will appeal Judge Charles Saylor's ruling allowing David F. Kaleta's to access county-owned property and the judge's finding that the county violated the Sunshine Act in the decision to ban Kaleta from the land.
County solicitor Frank Garrigan confirmed the plan to appeal Tuesday. He said the case has been turned over to attorney Robert Hanna of Harrisburg, who represents the county's insurance carrier.
Meanwhile, Commissioners Stephen Bridy and Vinny Clausi continued their public criticism of Saylor's ruling, in which he granted Kaleta's request for a preliminary injunction that allows him access to land designated for the county's proposed Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area (AOAA) while the lawsuit he filed against the county, Bridy and Clausi continues. The commissioners had criticized the judge in reaction to his ruling last week, and they picked up the subject at Tuesday's commissioners' meeting.
"He (Saylor) sold us down the Sunbury river," Clausi said. "He is prejudiced against me. But we will overrule him and move forward. He didn't have the guts to show up today."
Clausi had a seat reserved for Saylor at the front of the commissioners' meeting room.
Clausi also was critical of Commissioner Richard Shoch for speaking with Kaleta and his attorneys, Kymberley Best and Timothy Bowers, a few days before Kaleta filed his lawsuit Sept. 17.
Shoch admitted to Clausi he spoke with Kaleta and his attorneys and had a suspicion that a lawsuit would be filed.
Shoch is not a defendant in the suit because he didn't approve of the letter sent to Kaleta banning him from the AOAA.
In a six-page order issued Sept. 28 after a preliminary injunction hearing two days earlier, Saylor said a decision by the county that banned Kaleta from the property should not be enforced, pending any further order of the court. Also, he said the county's decision represents a violation of the Sunshine Act that requires county business be deliberated at a publicly advertised meeting.
Kaleta's suit claims the action against him represents First Amendment retaliation because he has been critical of the off-highway vehicle park's development.
Clausi previously said he knew Saylor would rule against the county because commissioners denied raises for court secretaries and removed the Court Appointed Special Advocates program from the courthouse, Clausi said.
On Tuesday, Clausi stated, "Judge Saylor has it in for me and I ask the residents of Northumberland County to ask him why President Judge Robert Sacavage removed him from hearing all the children cases in the county."
He added, "The judge had an opportunity to get back at me and he took it."
Saylor was not in his officer later Tuesday afternoon, and efforts to reach him via cell phone Tuesday night were unsuccessful.
Clausi and Bridy believe the judge should have recused himself from the case.
During Tuesday's commissioners' meeting, Bridy presented an order signed by Saylor on April 22, 2009, in which he recused himself from hearing a case involving a defendant and Point Township supervisors. Saylor recused himself because he previously served as solicitor for Point Township for 17 years and once worked for the same law firm as Shoch, who has served as solicitor for Point Township for several years.
Saylor also noted in newspaper accounts of difficulties and accusations between the unidentified defendant and Shoch in his recusal letter. Saylor said his disqualification from the case promoted judicial integrity.
Spiked board investigation
In a related issue, Coal Township police are continuing their investigation of the discovery of a 41-inch board with protruding sharpened bolts at the AOAA in late August.
Coal Township Police Chief William Carpenter said the board was discovered at the site by an unidentified man around the third week of August, but wasn't removed from the ground until early September and turned over by Kevin Troup to planning department grants manager Kathy Jeremiah.
"I was made aware of the board by Kathy Jeremiah around Sept. 3," Carpenter said. "She told me she would get back to us about conducting an investigation. Patrolman Terry Ketchem was made aware of the board Sept. 21 and started his investigation. But we never saw the board until Sept. 26 when it was turned over to us by the county."
Carpenter said he has no idea at this point how the board got to the AOAA or how long it was there.
"We're hoping someone comes forward and gives us information," Carpenter said. "The investigation is still active, but we need assistance from the public to solve it."
In other business:
- The commissioners adopted a resolution to enter into an agreement with the City of Shamokin to secure grant funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
- The board appointed Stephen Jeffery acting emergency management coordinator.