Scott Van Fleet responds to Yerke’s preliminary objections.
The ongoing dispute between neighbors Scott Van Fleet and Covington Twp. Chairman of the Board of Supervisors Thomas Yerke took another step forward on Monday, March 23, when Van Fleet filed an answer to Yerke’s Dec. 19 preliminary objections to Van Fleet’s Oct. 20 lawsuit.
Van Fleet’s original lawsuit alleges that Yerke is in violation of Covington Twp.’s Junkyard Ordinance, claiming that Yerke illegally operates a junkyard on his property, which cannot be used as a junkyard as it has been residentially zoned since 1987. In December, Yerke objected to Van Fleet’s lawsuit and made several allegations against him.
One of Yerke’s original objections against Van Fleet’s lawsuit stated that Van Fleet alleges that Yerke himself updated Covington Twp.’s zoning laws. However, Van Fleet’s original lawsuit did not allege that. In his March 23 response, Van Fleet reiterated that Yerke’s voting privileges were not the issue and that the major issue in the case was whether or not Yerke’s property is a legal or illegal junkyard based on Covington Twp.’s zoning laws.
Yerke also alleged that Van Fleet did not exhaust all administrative remedies regarding the matter. The minutes of the Oct. 2, 2007 meeting of the Covington Twp. Board of Supervisors show that Van Fleet did, in fact, raise the issue before the board and that the matter was brought to the attention of township Zoning and Code Enforcement Officer Bill Wright. However, no further action was taken by the township.
Yerke also alleged that he was not properly served with the lawsuit. In a previous interview with The Villager, Yerke’s attorney, Paul Walker, said “The other objection is he hadn’t served it [the complaint] properly. When you have a complaint, the initial complaint should be served by the sheriff. He didn’t do that. His own affidavit he served by certified mail, which is an improper method of service. Then he served it by constable, which is also an improper method of service.” Walker did not return calls for additional comment.
According to Pennsylvania’s Rules of Civil Procedure/ Pa. 42 R.C.P. § 400 (b)(3), in addition to service by the sheriff, a complaint may be served by a competent adult in the case of a declaratory judgment when the desired outcome is a declaratory relief, which is the case with this lawsuit.
Pennsylvania State Constable Chuck Warrick signed a service of process on Dec. 8 stating that he served Yerke with the complaint on Nov. 16, 2008 at 5:30 p.m. while Yerke was at the Madisonville Maintenance Building.
Yerke declined to comment for this article.
Van Fleet explained that he had to bring suit against Yerke because his complaints have been falling on deaf ears when he presented them to the township.
“The township is aware of this issue because it has been presented in court and Mr. Yerke hired an attorney but the township has done nothing,” he said. “I am shocked by this. We have an issue here that I brought up in the past and went through the proper channels to address but the township has done nothing, even after the complaint was filed.”
“It’s not right,” Van Fleet added. “Now I have to spend time and money to hold Mr. Yerke accountable for his actions because the township won’t do it.”