The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

News

June 19, 2014

Federal magistrate issues recommendations in Northumberland County lawsuit

WILLIAMSPORT — A federal magistrate recommended that two claims by a Shamokin man alleging his rights were violated be denied and two claims move forward to trial in a lawsuit filed against Northumberland County Commissioners Vinny Clausi and Stephen Bridy and the county.

David Kaleta claims in the lawsuit, which was filed in county court in September 2012 and moved to federal court in October 2012, that his rights were violated over issued related to the Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area (AOAA).

U.S. Magistrate Judge Martin C. Carlson issued a 50-page opinion Wednesday, most of which details the history and relationship between Kaleta and the county and development of the 6,500 acres of forest and abandoned coal land in Coal, East Cameron, Mount Carmel, West Cameron and Zerbe townships into the off-highway vehicle and other recreational activities park.

Carlson recommended that Kaleta’s claim of a Sunshine Act violation and First Amendment retaliation should move forward since disputed issues about the facts still remain.

However, Kaleta’s claims for injunctive relief to access the land and First Amendment violations should be dismissed, Carlson said.

Kaleta has been a long-time critic of the AOAA plans.

He claims Bridy and Clausi violated the Sunshine Act by ordering planning director Pat Mack in a private meeting to send him a letter banning him from the land. Kaleta won a preliminary injunction to access the land during the lawsuit.

Kaleta’s claim for continuing the injunctive relief are “moot” because the county and the AOAA Authority have since revised their policies in relation to accessing the land, Carlson said.

Bridy and Clausi banned Kaleta from the land “in an effort to retaliate against the plaintiff (Kaleta) for speaking out against the project and their political leadership,” the magistrate said.

Carlson did not agree that the county’s restrictions on the land constitute unlawful prior restraints against speech that violate the First Amendment because there is insufficient factual or legal support for the claim.

He also recommended that Kaleta’s claim for attorney fees and costs related to the claim should move forward.

U.S. District Judge Matthew W. Brann must now adopt or reject the recommendations.

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