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Shippensburg deadlocked on logging vote

June 28, 1999|By DON AINES

SHIPPENSBURG, Pa. - A decision on whether Shippensburg should spend more money pursuing a timber theft case remains unresolved after a special meeting scheduled for June 25 was called off.

"They didn't have the meeting because they knew they wouldn't have a quorum," Mayor Timothy R. Costanza said Sunday. He said the meeting was called off earlier in the week because a quorum of at least four of the six council members would not be present.

"It just died. It's as if the vote never happened," he said.

The vote to which he referred was a 3-3 tie on June 15 over spending another $1,000 to file additional legal briefs in the case of alleged illegal harvesting of timber at the borough's Gunter Valley Reservoir.

Former Shippensburg Water Department Superintendent Richard C. Kelley Sr. and logger Donald Johnson, both of Orrstown, Pa., were charged by Pennsylvania State Police in 1995 with illegally harvesting $177,400 worth of live timber from borough lands.

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The original charges alleged that the timber was taken between 1991 and 1993, according to court records. Nelson said at the hearing that there was evidence of an agreement between the borough and Johnson about logging portions of the reservoir and that other logging companies had access to the land during that time.

In September 1995, state police dropped the charges after consulting with the Franklin County District Attorney's Office. This year, on June 14, a hearing was held in Franklin County Court with the borough asking Judge Douglas W. Herman to order District Attorney John F. Nelson to prosecute Kelley and Johnson.

The council's deadlock followed discussion in which it was pointed out the county has spent $50,000 in legal and investigation fees.

Nelson said at the June 14 hearing there was insufficient evidence to prosecute the men. In a previous filing, he said his office also has a policy not to prosecute cases for which there are adequate civil remedies available.

Costanza said the council could reintroduce the issue at its July 20 meeting, or earlier if the council decides to hold a special meeting. The mayor has declined to say how he would vote on the matter.

July 20 coincides with the time Herman gave attorneys for the borough to submit additional briefs. He gave Nelson another two weeks to respond.

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