The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

April 18, 2013

Mifflinburg volunteer firefighter charged with harassing auction bidder

By Evamarie Socha
The Daily Item

-- — MIFFLINBURG — Warning another real estate bidder “you better hope your house doesn’t burn down” while poking him in the chest, a Mifflinburg firefighter has been charged with oppression and harassment.

Mifflinburg Police filed charges yesterday against James R. Emery, 39, of Mifflinburg: two misdemeanor counts of official oppression and one summary offense of harassment for “verbally and physically intimidating” Matthew Wagner of Mifflinburg and Eric Campbell of Bloomsburg.

The charges were filed with Magisterial District Judge Jeffrey Mensch, who witnessed Emery verbally threatening Wagner and Campbell, who owns a rental property company, at a public real estate auction April 3 at the former Mary Johnson estate at 302-304 Market St. in Mifflinburg.

Campbell told the Daily Item he intended to bid on and buy the home to add to his rental properties.

The Mifflinburg Fire Department wanted it to expand behind its headquarters at 325 Chestnut St., said Mifflinburg Fire Chief John Heiges.

According to the affidavit, Emery — wearing his Mifflinburg Fire Department coat — told Wagner the men were bidding against the fire company; Wagner said he was there with Campbell, who was bidding.

The bidding continued, and ultimately the fire company won the property for about $164,000, Heiges said.

After the bidding, Emery approached the two men again, according to the affidavit, and told them they had just cost taxpayers a lot more money by running up the bid. He then poked Campbell three times in the chest and said “Don’t be surprised if your house burns down,” according to the affidavit.

Campbell told Emery to get out of his face, to which Emery responded “You better hope your house doesn’t catch fire.” Emery later asked Campbell where his other rental properties are; He again walked away but repeated that Campbell “better hope your house doesn’t catch fire.”

Several witnesses — including Magisterial District Judge Jeffrey Mensch and Mifflinburg Borough Councilman Benjamin Dietrich — gave statements to Mifflinburg Police about the incident and informed Campbell of Emery’s job as a Union County codes enforcement officer. Chelsea Skucek, who was at the auction with her mother in law Joannah Skucek, made two video recordings of the encounter with her cellphone and told the men she was taping the incident. Both recordings were given to police.

Emery informed Mifflinburg Police in his own statement that he has been suspended as a code enforcement officer for Central Keystone Council of Governments until the investigation is complete. He denied asking about Campbell’s other properties in relation to his code enforcement capacity.

Heiges said he could not answer if the fire company has taken any actions against Emery, who will appear for a preliminary hearing May 14 before Magisterial District Judge Lori Hackenberg.