The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


September 24, 2012

Meeting on booby trap in outdoor area canceled

SUNBURY — The Northumberland County commissioners attempted to hold an emergency meeting Monday to discuss concerns about a booby trap found in the Anthracite Adventure Outdoor Area, but the session was canceled at the last minute after Commissioner Rick Shoch said the scheduling of the meeting violated open-meetings laws.

Shoch said he objected because he had not been informed in writing about the session, even though the meeting had been advertised in the three daily newspapers published in the county.

Commissioners Steve Bridy and Vinny Clausi said Shoch’s boycott of the meeting put county residents at risk because one of the items on the agenda involved approving new signs to warn people that the county-owned tract of 600 acres is off-limits.

The county was getting ready to vote on spending money to replace stolen or lost “no-trespassing signs” throughout the property.

A piece of wood with several nails and metal sticking out of it was found in the park and turned over to the Coal Township Police Department for investigation in late August, Bridy said.

He said the reason county officials took nearly a month to announce the discovery was that they didn’t want to interfere with the investigation.

“Today was the day we chose to have this meeting,” Bridy said. “As far as I know, nothing else has been discovered on the land.”

Shoch said he was not made aware of the meeting and he had no idea why the three commissioners were even meeting in the first place.

“I have received no notice, either written or oral, as to the nature of business to be conducted at this meeting,” he wrote. “Neither have I waived my right to such notice. As such, it is my position that the meeting does not constitute a lawfully convened meeting of the board of directors under the county code and any votes taken at such meeting will be of no effect and will not be binding on either the county or any other party affected by them”

Clausi said in his five years as a commissioner, former Commissioner Frank Sawicki called several special meetings and Clausi was never made aware of them in writing.

“It happens, and things come up, but he (Shoch) knew there was a meeting,” Clausi said. “There were many special meetings held, and I wasn’t given an agenda until just prior to the meeting. However, I showed up for these meetings because I wanted to know what was going on and cast my vote.”

The county had decreed the property off-limits to anyone without special permission from the planning office. Trespassers can be cited and fined, but over the years, all of the signs warning trespassers have disappeared. The county commissioners were planning to vote to post new signs.

“He knew the meeting was taking place, and we decided to cancel to be cautious of Shoch’s motives,” Clausi said. “He found a loophole, and all he is is a troublemaker, and this has now put county residents in danger because we can’t stop people from going on the land until next Tuesday.”

Shoch, who is an attorney, entered the commissioners’ meeting room at 20 minutes before the meeting was scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. and handed a written letter to members of the media before leaving the administration building.

At approximately 11:20, Chief Clerk Gary Steffen entered holding the piece of wood pierced by metal spikes and informed the few dozen people in attendance the meeting had been canceled.


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