Judges tosses Kaleta request over time issue
WILLIAMSPORT - A federal judge has dismissed a motion by David Kaleta in his federal Sunshine Act lawsuit asking that Northumberland County officials be ordered to keep audio recordings of past meetings.
In a two-page memorandum order Thursday, U.S. Chief Magistrate Judge Martin C. Carlson said Kaleta had been directed to file a brief in support of his motion by April 18. Since the time to file the court documents passed, Carlson withdrew and dismissed the motion.
Kaleta declined comment when contacted by phone Thursday night.
He had asked the judge to order the county to preserve audio records and any and all discoverable material because they may have evidence on them in relation to his battle with the county over being barred from county-owned property that makes up the Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area (AOAA).
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 county planning director Pat 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 Commissioners Vinny Clausi and Stephen Bridy.
Kaleta, claiming the discussion to deny access was a violation of the Sunshine Act, won a preliminary injunction allowing him access to the AOAA land in Northumberland County Court. With Kaleta alleging a violation of his First Amendment rights, the case was moved to federal court.
The audio tape ruling was the second this week by Carlson involving Kaleta's case. On Monday, he denied a motion by Clausi and Bridy that sought to have Kaleta's attorneys, Kymberley best and Timothy Bowers, disqualified because they dealt with administration and legal issues related to the AOAA during their time as Northumberland County employees. Carlson's 27-page opinion said Best and Bowers' prior representation of the county had little to do with issues in Kaleta's suit.
Shoch's role with tapes
Kaleta has argued that he is using several of the past tapes in helping to plan his lawsuit.
But the audio tape issue expanded beyond Kaleta to the third commissioner, Richard Shoch. He and Clausi got into a heated argument at a March 5 commissioners meeting regarding a plan to dispose of the tapes.
Shoch has said he wants the tapes preserved in part because of concerns about the county's trouble with the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program grant. The state Department of Community and Economic Development is considering making the county pay back more than $200,000 of the money because of insufficient documentation.
Clausi and Bridy both said they've been told by several attorneys that the county has no obligation to hold onto the tapes.