Shamokin Housing Authority chair charged with harassing public housing residents
SHAMOKIN - The chairman of the Shamokin Housing Authority has been charged with harassing residents at two complexes managed by the agency.
City Police Patrolman Raymond Siko II on Tuesday charged Raymond G. "Gerry" Splane, 74, of 79 E. Sunbury St., with a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct and a summary offense of harassment based on incidents in late August at the Raspberry Hill housing complex and the Harold E. Thomas Highrise.
Splane said he's simply working to keep buildings secure and prevent abuse of the public housing system, and that the charges are false.
"I will fight these charges tooth and nail," he said. "The security cameras and other witnesses will prove my innocence."
Vehicle permit dispute
According to the criminal complaint, police were called to the Raspberry Hill site Aug. 22 and spoke with Brittany Rumberger, who said Splane had been harassing while he drives or walks around the complex at all hours of the day and night.
On this particular day, Rumberger told police, she argued with Splane about a vehicle parked at her residence that had a visitor's parking permit. She said she told Splane it wasn't her car, but that she was using it because her's was disabled, and that she had permission from the office staff to park it there.
Splane said he was checking the vehicle that day when Rumberger came running out and put the visitor's pass into it.
Rumberger said Splane writes down the license numbers of the people who visit her and accused him of looking into residents' windows on several occasions.
She said on one occasion, Splane pulled his vehicle behind the one she was driving, blocking her in. He then began telling her the rules and regulations about vehicles on the property, she told police.
While police were on scene Aug. 22, Siko said two other neighbors came forward and corroborated Rumberger's accusations. They, too, said Splane's patrols sometimes occur at 3 or 4 a.m., police said.
One neighbor said the chairman's actions prompted residents to hang curtains on their windows.
Checking for passes
Splane says what he's doing is part of his role as housing chairman, particularly when Executive Director Ronald Miller is not around.
When he's not, "I'm the one in charge," Splane said. "I was just trying to make sure everything is OK, make sure the cars are properly posted with either a resident or visitor pass."
This isn't the first time police investigated claims of trouble with Splane at Raspberry Hill. In June 2011, the chairman was accused of shining vehicle lights into residences and "peeping" into windows, although no criminal charges were filed.
Splane denied the accusations then and did so again Tuesday.
"I have never peeped into a home, and have not been up there at night in several weeks," he said, repeating that security footage will prove him right.
City police were contracted by the authority to provide security in the area in the past, but when funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development was cut, the contract was dropped and security cameras were installed. The cameras are the only form of security at the complex.
Police said the accusations against Splane at the high-rise, at the corner of Sunbury (Route 61) and Dewart streets, stem from an Aug. 29 incident.
Resident Olive Reed told police a friend of hers who lives at the Maple Leaf Personal Care home across Dewart Street is harassed by Splane if he shows up while he's visiting.
Splane said Tuesday the person has been a "nuisance" for the past year. He said on one occasion where no one would buzz him in, the visitor walked in behind another person when they entered. Splane, who was present at the time, said he confronted the man, who he said shoved him and yelled, "I live here," when in fact he doesn't.
"We discussed in executive session to make him a trespasser, but it never materialized," Splane said of the authority board.
As for Aug. 29, Reed told police Splane tried to stop her friend from entering the building and said he would have him arrested.
The individual, who suffers from the effects of several strokes and a brain injury, became upset and was afraid to visit Reed, she told police.
A caregiver for Reed was contacted. When she arrived to check on Reed, she was asked to go get her friend at Maple Leaf, Siko said.
The two walked into the high-rise and the friend went to Reed's apartment, but the caregiver was questioned by Splane about who she was, who her client was and the person she brought in with her, according to the criminal complaint.
Splane gave his take Tuesday.
"Neither of them signed in and she had no identification," he said. "We have a real security problem there and I'm trying to keep the residents of the building safe."
Splane expects to fight the charges with the authority's lawyer.
"All this happened while I was on authority business, so the authority will pay for my attorney," he said.
Authority Executive Director Ron Miller said he wanted to discuss the matter with legal counsel before making a statement about the legal representation.
Miller said there is a provision in the authority bylaws that says the chairman is in charge when the executive director is not present, but he said he'd have to investigate further as to the specifics, such as whether that applies on a daily basis or only in a long-term absence.
The charges, which Siko said cover both incidents, were filed with Magisterial District Judge John Gembic III, of Shamokin, and a preliminary hearing is set for Oct. 22.