Northumberland County judge denies 'emergency' hearing in Kaleta case; meeting set for Monday
SUNBURY - A Northumberland County judge has denied a motion for an emergency injunction filed by attorneys representing Dave Kaleta, the Shamokin man who sued the county and two commissioners earlier this week after they banned him from accessing the county's Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area (AOAA) property.
While the court had already scheduled a hearing Tuesday afternoon to hear Kaleta's original motion for injunction, Kymberley Best and Timothy Bowers requested the emergency action after learning the commissioners will have a special meeting Monday that the attorneys say pertains to their action against Kaleta.
They wanted a hearing prior to that meeting, but Judge Charles Saylor said the issue is not that urgent.
"The plaintiff must allege in his petition a 'clear right to relief,'" he wrote in his order, issued at 4:29 p.m. Wednesday, just a half-hour after Best and Bowers filed the request. "The plaintiff has not set forth in his motion any reason for a court order to allow his access to county land until such time as a hearing can be held on Sept. 25."
Saylor also said the court has no reason to stop the commissioners from holding a special meeting.
Kaleta's original motion for a preliminary injunction was filed Monday at the same time he filed his lawsuit. The suit claims the county, Clausi and Bridy violated the Sunshine Act and committed First Amendment retaliation in denying Kaleta's request for a waiver that would allow him to enter the county-owned property, which he and many others have been doing for decades prior to the AOAA development.
The ban was issued through a Sept. 10 letter signed by Pat Mack, director of the planning department, which is overseeing the AOAA project.
In the emergency injunction, Kaleta also sought to prevent the commissioners from taking action at Monday's meeting to "ratify the acts" he alleged were committed against him, suggesting the commissioners might take a formal vote to ban his access.
What's on the agenda?
Wednesday afternoon, county department heads received an e-mail from the commissioners' office notifying them of the 11 a.m. meeting, but without giving any details. After learning of the e-mail, Kaleta directed his attorneys to file for the emergency injunction.
A copy of an advertisement slated for publication in local newspapers Sunday, shown to The News-Item at the administration building on Thursday, says the sole purpose of the meeting is "as set forth on the meeting agenda."
The motion for emergency injunction accused Clausi and Bridy of conspiring to hold the meeting "in defiance of the court" and to deprive Kaleta of "a disposition of his claims."
Best and Bowers also claim county solicitor Frank Garrigan's request for continuing the hearing until Tuesday, after it was originally scheduled for today, was a "mere ruse to buy time to thwart a just disposition of Kaleta's claims." Garrigan said the request was made because Clausi was on vacation in Florida and Bridy was scheduled for further medical care today from recent shoulder surgery.
The third commissioner, Rick Shoch, who is not a defendant in the lawsuit, said he was never consulted about the issue of banning Kaleta from the land. Thursday, Shoch said he was never notified by Bridy or Clausi about Monday's meeting. Shoch said he noticed it Wednesday afternoon on an electronic calendar of events.
Garrigan said Thursday he was not aware of the emergency injunction because he was working all day at his private law office in Shamokin. He reserved comment about the "ruse" accusation.
Bridy took offense with the comment.
"My medical appointment was scheduled for about 10 days," he said.
Bridy said he wants to be present at the injunction hearing to explain the county's position.
"We just can't allow carte blanche access to the land," he said. "We need to know who, when and why people are on that property."
Bridy said AOAA issues will be discussed at Monday's special meeting.
"I want to have a resolution passed to create a separate committee under the AOAA authority that would have representation from all the municipalities affected by the AOAA," he said. "That way, everyone can have a say."
Clausi on Thursday said he wouldn't comment on the hearing because of the lawsuit, other than to say he would protect county residents. He also declined to comment about Monday's meeting agenda.
Kaleta claims First Amendment retaliation because he said the county and Bridy and Clausi have banned him from county land because he has been critical of the AOAA plan.