Judge considers objections in city vs. Gilligbauer lawsuit
SUNBURY - Northumberland County's president judge is mulling over preliminary objections filed on behalf of a Shamokin mechanic who was sued by the city for allegedly violating a junk vehicle ordinance.
Judge Robert B. Sacavage will consider the merits of preliminary objections filed in August by attorney Richard Feudale for Robert Gilligbauer, along with the merits of a civil complaint filed in July by city solicitor H. Robert Mattis.
A hearing on the objections was held Tuesday before Sacavage, with Mattis, Gilligbauer and Feudale attending.
The judge could decide to rule in favor of Gilligbauer and either dismiss the case or seek additional evidence from the city, or deny the objections and move the process closer to trial. There is no timetable for a ruling, and neither attorney expected one Tuesday.
The city asks the court to order Gilligbauer to remove vehicles they believe violate ordinance from two lots at Rock and Spurzheim streets, and permanently enjoin him from violating the ordinance in the future.
Gilligbauer asks that the case be dismissed, with his attorney claiming the city failed to follow the rules of its own ordinance by not providing 10 days notice before filing suit and not providing specifics of the alleged violations. At the least, the defendant seeks more evidence from the city.
Mattis said the city has long been engaged in a "cat-and-mouse game" with Gilligbauer when attempting to enforce the ordinance. He claims the mechanic would simply shuffle cars on and off his lots when notice of violation was given. He said 10 days notice of violation is not necessary for the city's civil action.
"We're not even trying to fine him. We're just trying to enforce the ordinance," Mattis told the judge.
"What trouble is the city in?" Sacavage asked after asking about how the cat-and-mouse game was unfolding.
"We're always chasing him around," Mattis said, explaining the city's claims, for example, that two offending vehicles would be removed one day, only to be replaced with three more offending vehicles on the next.
Gilligbauer has said previously the vehicles are moved as part of business: Customers pick up vehicles that are fixed and drop off those that need repair.
Feudale claimed Tuesday the city's claims are nonspecific, and argued that photos presented by the city as evidence show no hanging metal, broken windshields or other hazards.
"To say just simply that a vehicle doesn't have a plate, the courts have consistently held that that is unreasonable," Feudale said.
He continued, "In this complaint, there's nothing there. ... There's no allegation of injury."
Sacavage replied, "Isn't the fact that there are junk cars allegedly in violation, isn't that an injury to the value of the community of the citizens who live here?"
Feudale told the judge that part of the argument is what constitutes a junk car, and that his client would argue that these vehicles in question are not junk, but are in line for repairs.
Case law presented
Mattis presented Sacavage with local case law from in 2008 in which Sacavage upheld Zerbe Township's enforcement of its junk vehicle ordinance. The city tailored its code after Zerbe's.
Feudale presented Sacavage with a commonwealth court case from 2012 in which a Perry County ruling on New Bloomfield's junk vehicle code was overturned in favor of the defendant.