Northumberland County objects to judge's decision in land access case
WILLIAMSPORT - Attorneys for Northumberland County and commissioners Vinny Clausi and Stephen Bridy have filed objections in federal court over a recent decision to allow the lawsuit for outdoor enthusiast David Kaleta to proceed.
The law firm of Lavery, Faherty and Patterson, of Harrisburg, filed the objection in U.S. Middle District Court Wednesday, following a June 18 report by U.S. Magistrate Judge Martin Carlson which recommended that two of Kaleta's claims - that the county violated the Sunshine Act by banning him from the AOAA grounds and that his First Amendment rights were violated by the commissioners' decisions - should be brought to trial.
In the 12-page objection, the county says a report concerning a Sept. 10, 2012, letter from county planning director Pat Mack and signed by Bridy and Clausi rejecting Kaleta's request to use the land for hunting and walking his dog was erroneous.
"(Northumberland County) submit that a newspaper article erroneously mentioning a vote, likely fed to the writer by the Plaintiff himself, and a single poorly worded correspondence, are simply insufficient to create a dispute of fact necessitating trial."
The county also states that if any vote actually occurred, Kaleta would have presented evidence to that fact.
Kaleta, claiming the discussion to deny his permit is a violation of the Sunshine Act, won a preliminary injunction in Northumberland County Court.
Because Kaleta alleged his First Amendment rights were violated, the case was moved to federal court.
The other claim that remains in the suit - that Kaleta's First Amendment rights were violated in retaliation for his criticism of the county's plan to build the Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area and the revoking of his lease for the Alaska site that is now part of the trail park - is also without merit, according to the county's attorneys.
"(Kaleta) may have disagreed with the creation of the motorized vehicle facility, desiring instead the land be left inviolate and dedicated to conservation and hunting, but he is not the landowner. The fact that the County did not favor his point of view, nor accede to his demands, simply does not a First Amendment- Retaliation claim state," the objection reads.