Knapick sues over limited time to speak during public meeting
SUNBURY - A Coal Township man who claims he was not given ample time by Northumberland County Commissioner Chairman Vinny Clausi to express his opinions during a public meeting last week has filed suit against Clausi and the county.
William R. Knapick Sr., of 1435 W. Pine St., claims Clausi violated the Sunshine Act by limiting public comment to two minutes.
Knapick filed the lawsuit and a motion for a preliminary injunction late Monday in the county prothonotary's office through his attorneys, Kymberley Best and Timothy Bowers, who both formerly served as legal counsel for the county.
In his complaint, Knapick said the commissioners are required to provide a reasonable opportunity for public comment in accordance with the Sunshine Act. At the Jan. 22 commissioners' meeting, Clausi imposed a two-minute limit on public comment without taking a vote or receiving approval from the majority of commissioners, the lawsuit states.
Knapick claims Clausi only gave him 90 seconds instead of two minutes to make comments and also cut off his friend, David F. Kaleta, of Shamokin, at 65 seconds when he was posing questions to Clausi.
The suit also claims Clausi violated the Sunshine Act by retaliating against a member of the public for objecting to Clausi's alleged violation of the act.
The suit states, "Clausi's acts arbitrarily restrict public comment and are calculated to deter public participation at meetings through threats and coercion."
In addition to seeking costs and attorney fees from Clausi, Knapick wants to make the two-minute public comment rule unenforceable. He also wants all action taken at the Jan. 22 meeting to become void.
Knapick had again asked the commissioners for an update on his complaint made in October regarding the cutting of what he claims was hundreds of trees Dec. 10 and Dec. 11, 2011, to create new trails for the Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area (AOAA).
Clausi had said in addressing the issue later last week that he thinks two minutes is enough time, because if people need more information, it can be provided after the meeting. But he said he would consider lengthening it.