The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


September 26, 2013

US magistrate recommends dismissal of Bartello allegation

LEWISBURG — SUNBURY — A U.S, magistrate judge is recommending that the Northumberland County Court should handle two remaining allegations included in a civil lawsuit filed by a Sunbury councilman against the city.

However, U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas M. Blewitt also recommends that Joseph Bartello’s allegation that Sunbury Mayor David Persing initiated an illegal investigation into him in retaliation for speaking out at a public meeting on alleged code issues involving the former Celotex industrial site in Sunbury. A fourth count may be dismissed at Bartello’s request, according to court documents.

All litigants will have an opportunity to make further arguments before a U.S. District Judge reviews the case and issues a final order.

Blewitt recommends sending back to Northumberland County Court Bartello’s claims that Sunbury officials violated the Pennsylvania Sunshine Act. Bartello contends that Persing failed to provide a reasonable opportunity for public comment before taking official action regarding alleged code violations at the former industrial site.

Bartello, who is waging an independent campaign for Sunbury mayor in the November election, also contends that Persing improperly called for a private closed-door meeting to discuss the code issue, violating the Sunshine Law.

Northumberland County Court also would hear Bartello’s allegation that Persing violated the Pennsylvania Third Class City Code and the Pennsylvania Right to Know Law when he initiated an investigation focusing on Bartello and ordered Bartello to surrender his city-issued computer to the police or face prosecution.

The dispute leading to the lawsuit began earlier this year when attorneys for Moran Industries, Watsontown, which operates at the former Celotex site, filed a Right To Know request seeking emails from Bartello’s city-owned laptop computer.

Twelve hours before Bartello surrendered the machine to police under threat of punishment by Persing, the computer’s operating system was changed, a Bloomsburg forensics company reported. In a report, Optimo Digital Forensics said files were destroyed in the process. The company added that it also found pornographic images on Bartello’s computer.

At the time, Bartello was in charge of the city’s code enforcement office and was in a dispute with Moran over alleged code violations.

Attorneys Kymberley Best and Tim Bowers, of Sunbury, who represent Bartello, said Thursday that they were not pleased with the court’s decision and plan to appeal.

“We respectfully disagree with the federal magistrate’s ruling,” Best said. “We do believe that Bartello was speaking as an employee on matters of concern to the citizens of Sunbury, and we intend to file exceptions and test the issue before (U.S. District) Judge Matthew Brann.”

Bartello said he didn’t think the lawsuit would go far.

“They spend $5,000 to smear my political campaign by searching the computer,” Bartello said Thursday. “If Persing wanted to do that, why didn’t he spend his own money? He could have saved the taxpayers $5,000.”

Bartello will take the advice of his attorneys, he said.

The city has spent more than $10,000 to date on the lawsuit, and Councilman Jim Eister said, “That’s a shame.”

“This was a frivolous lawsuit. It’s a shame that we had to even be involved in this just because a councilman was using a city-owned computer for his self pleasure,” Eister said.

“This has cost the taxpayers a lot of money, which could have been used for other projects in the city,” he added. “I am very happy the court realized there was no merit to this. It is a shame this has happened.”

Persing could not be reached for comment.

Text Only
  • Union County bridge replacement project begins Aug. 4

    HARTLETON — A PennDOT maintenance crew in Union County will begin a bridge replacement project Aug. 4 on Pleasant Grove Road, Route 3005, in Lewis Township, between Moll Road and Wirth Road, north of Pleasant Grove.

    July 23, 2014

  • DanCrash23.jpg BREAKING NEWS: Woman killed today in Danville area collision

    DANVILLE – An older woman, from the area, was killed in a log truck-car crash at about 1:45 this afternoon at Routes 642 and 54 in Valley Township.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Jay Paterno sues Penn State for 'rush to judgment'

    STATE COLLEGE - Two former Penn State assistant football coaches, including a son of the late Joe Paterno, are suing the university, alleging that it fired them prematurely after the Jerry Sandusky child sex-abuse scandal surfaced.

    July 23, 2014

  • 400-pound bull on the lam

    State police and a western Pennsylvania cattle owner are looking for a 2-year-old bull that has been missing for more than a week.

    July 23, 2014

  • Complainer: Cars whiz by, and drivers take whiz

    The Pennsylvania Turnpike has asked state police to increase patrols near an area of the toll road where a woman says she can see motorists exposing and relieving themselves near her backyard.

    July 23, 2014

  • spider24online.jpg Arachnid alert!

    We came across this spider brunching on another today near the American Legion post in Herndon. We aren't sure what type of spiders they are. Particularly the one with the full stomach. Do you?

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Today's Editorial: Experts showing the way for reform

    Domestic abuse remains one of the most prevalent crimes nationally yet remains routinely unreported.

    July 23, 2014

  • Feds ship 500 children to Pennsylvania

    HARRISBURG — An influx of unaccompanied children crossing the southern U.S. border is spilling into Pennsylvania, as state officials received word Monday that more than 500 are being housed in the commonwealth.

    July 22, 2014

  • Hope Lewis Inmate's widow wants $750,000 from Northumberland County

    SUNBURY — The widow of a Shamokin man who hanged himself inside Northumberland County Prison is demanding $750,000, the firing of all jail employees who worked the night of June 16 and a complete overhaul of policies and procedures for suicidal inmates.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Vancliff Lifer gets more time for molesting Danville girls

    WILKES-BARRE — A convicted murderer accused of having persuaded a former Danville woman to bring two girls to visit him in a northeastern Pennsylvania prison so he could molest them has been sentenced to additional prison time and fined.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

The Daily Marquee

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.