Gembic recuses himself from harassment hearing
SHAMOKIN - Magisterial District Judge John Gembic III has recused himself from presiding over a preliminary hearing for Shamokin Housing Authority Chairman Raymond G. "Gerry" Splane, who is charged with harassing residents at two complexes managed by the agency.
Splane, whose hearing was scheduled Tuesday before Gembic, will now have his case heard by Magisterial District Judge Benjamin Apfelbaum of Sunbury at 1 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 26.
Gembic recused himself late Monday afternoon, prompting Northumberland County Court Administrator Brandy Yasenchak to reassign the case to Apfelbaum.
Gembic said he recused himself because he had too much prior knowledge of the case. He said he didn't want to elaborate any further.
Splane, 74, of 79 E. Sunbury St., was charged last month by Shamokin Patrolman Raymond Siko II with a misdemeanor of disorderly conduct and a summary offense of harassment based on incidents in late August at the Raspberry Hill housing complex and the Harold E. Thomas Highrise.
Splane claims he's simply working to keep buildings secure and prevent abuse of the public housing system and that the charges are false. He vowed to fight the charges and said the security cameras and other witnesses will prove his innocence.
In an unrelated case, Splane was cited last month by Code Enforcement Officer Rick Bozza for allowing water to dispense from a roof at his property at 809 N. Sixth St.
Bozza said Splane was notified of the issue verbally and through the mail on numerous occasions.
Gembic presided over a 30-minute hearing Monday involving the citation and found Splane guilty of the summary offense Tuesday afternoon. The judge ordered Splane to pay a $100 fine plus costs.
According to a criminal complaint, police were called to the Raspberry Hill site Aug. 22 and spoke with Brittany Rumberger, who said Splane had been harassing her while he drives or walks around the complex at all hours of the day and night.
On this particular day, Rumberger told police, she argued with Splane about a vehicle parked at her residence that had a visitor's parking permit. She said she told Splane it wasn't her car, but that she was using it because hers was disabled, and that she had permission from the office staff to park it there.
Splane said he was checking the vehicle that day when Rumberger came running out and put the visitor's pass into it.
Rumberger said Splane writes down the license numbers of the people who visit her and accused him of looking into residents' windows on several occasions.
She said on one occasion, Splane pulled his vehicle behind the one she was driving, blocking her in. He then began telling her the rules and regulations about vehicles on the property, she told police.
While police were on scene Aug. 22, Siko said two other neighbors came forward and corroborated Rumberger's accusations. They, too, said Splane's patrols sometimes occur at 3 or 4 a.m., police said.
One neighbor said the chairman's actions prompted residents to hang curtains on their windows.
Splane says what he's doing is part of his role as housing chairman, particularly when executive director Ronald Miller is not around.
Police said the accusations against Splane at the high-rise at the corner of Sunbury (Route 61) and Dewart streets stem from an Aug. 29 incident.
Resident Olive Reed told police a friend who lives at the Maple Leaf Personal Care Home across from Dewart Street is harassed by Splane if he shows up while he's visiting.
Splane claimed the person has been a "nuisance" for the past year.