Tape recording remains mystery; Shoch: I never encouraged lawsuit
SUNBURY - Northumberland County Commissioner Vinny Clausi said an anonymous caller told him about an alleged tape recording of a conversation between fellow Commissioner Richard Shoch and Shamokin's Dave Kaleta, but that he still doesn't know if the tape actually exists.
Clausi referenced the tape in December when he asked Shoch at a commissioners' meeting if he had talked to Kaleta about filing a lawsuit against the county and Clausi and Commissioner Stephen Bridy just days before Kaleta filed it. Clausi said the tape reportedly includes information that Shoch also spoke to Sunbury attorneys and former county employees Kymberley Best and Timothy Bowers about filing the suit.
Clausi said Friday the person who called him about the tape never gave it to him. He said the idea that Shoch, as a commissioner, may have discussed a possible lawsuit against the county with the plaintiff concerned him enough to raise the issue at a public meeting.
Shoch, who has noted the possible criminal ramifications against someone making such a recording, said he did not encourage anyone to file a lawsuit against the county.
He said Kaleta did contact him when Kaleta received a letter from the county saying two commissioners had decided to restrict his access to county land, which led to his lawsuit claiming a violation of the Sunshine Act. He said he told Kaleta he was unaware of that decision, and that if Clausi and the third commissioner, Stephen Bridy, made such a decision, it probably constituted a violation.
"Did I say that to Kaleta? Yes," Shoch said Friday. "Did I encourage him to file a lawsuit? No," he said.
Shoch said Kaleta called him as a courtesy about the lawsuit, which was filed Sept. 17, to say "sorry, it's coming." While Clausi and Bridy are named individually in the suit, Shoch is not. Shoch has been supportive of Kaleta in his battles with the county over access to the proposed Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area (AOAA) property.
As for any discussions he had with Bowers, Shoch said later in the week that the lawsuit was filed, Bowers called him on his cell phone asking about a special meeting the county had called in regards to the access issue. He said Bowers has a right to call him, as any constituent does. He said that while he spoke to Bowers on that occasion and at other times, in part because they are both lawyers, he never encouraged him, or Best, to sue the county.
He referenced his conversation with Bowers the day Clausi questioned him at the public meeting, and believes Clausi may have misunderstood that to mean he discussed the lawsuit with Bowers.
Meanwhile, Clausi said he wouldn't be afraid to expose the tape if it is provided to him. Shoch said that wouldn't concern him, because he says he never encouraged anyone to sue the county.