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Housing group won't turn over all documents

August 05, 2003|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The lawyer for the Valley Housing Development Corp. says the organization does not have to provide documentation requested by the Waynesboro (Pa.) Borough Council regarding a 22-unit low-income housing project, but will voluntarily give the council "pertinent and relevant materials."

Last month, the council filed a petition in Franklin County Court requesting documents from Valley Housing and the Franklin County Housing Authority, claiming a rental market study for the project "employed flawed methodology" in determining the need for the $2.6 million development.

"We have determined that the Pennsylvania Right to Know Act does not apply to the Valley Housing Development Corp. because the organization is a Pennsylvania Nonprofit corporation," according to legal counsel Joel R. Zullinger, quoted in a press release from Hershey Philbin Associates, a public relations firm representing Valley Housing.

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Valley Housing filed its response to the Borough Council suit on Thursday, according to Zullinger's office.

"There has been much confusion regarding the leadership of the Valley Housing Development Corporation ... and the Franklin County Housing Authority," which is a Pennsylvania corporation, according to the news release.

Although Bonnie Zehler serves as executive director of both Valley Housing and the Franklin County Housing Authority, the organizations have different boards of directors and mission statements, according to the press release.

"Although we are not obligated by law to provide the borough with the requested excessive correspondence, e-mails, facsimiles, reports and various documents produced by the corporation and other entities from January 2003 to the present, we have voluntarily provided pertinent and relevant materials," Zullinger said in the statement.

Zullinger said he advised Valley Housing not to provide the documentation until he conducted a thorough review of the Borough Council petition. Providing all the requested documents, he said, would involve "hours upon hours to research, collect and compile."

"I am concerned that they are defining relevant and pertinent and they could still be withholding some things that are important to us," Councilman Clinton Barkdoll said Monday.

The council still will present a case that Valley Housing has to comply with the state's Right to Know Act at a Sept. 23 hearing on the motion in county court, Barkdoll said.

The borough first requested the information in June, according to the council's petition. Among the questions the council wants answered, according to Barkdoll, is why the rental market study placed Old Forge, Pa., a Lackawanna County borough, in Franklin County, along with other incorrect U.S. census data.

"We are, of course, very pleased they have taken this step," Barkdoll said of Valley Housing's decision to turn over some of the documents.

Barkdoll said Valley Housing has submitted a list of dates for a possible public meeting later this month to discuss the study.

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