Douglass Township officials are suing a former supervisor for nearly $37,000. The civil lawsuit alleges that Reinhold "Fred" Theil acted "without legal authority" to allow the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to dump 250,000 yards of debris from Hurricane Sandy at Mountain Mulch, located at 244 Sassmansville Road in Sassmansville.
The suit, filed recently, is an attempt by the township to recover the $36,943.82 it spent in legal and engineering fees required by the delivery of the debris, according to paperwork provided to reporters following Monday's board of supervisors meeting. It claims that Theil acted outside the scope of his authority as chairman of the board of supervisors and did not officially represent the township.
Reached on Tuesday afternoon at his home, Theil denied comment until he conferred with an attorney. "I don't know anything about it," he said. "I have not been served any papers. I don't understand why the township is releasing that information at a meeting."
The delivery greatly expanded the size and functions off the property, according to the documents. It states that due to the complaints of numerous neighbors, activities at the property forced the township "to litigate and contest numerous matters," including the attempt of property neighbors seeking to become part of the suit.
Theil's actions could be one of the factors in his decisions to resign from the board, according to Township Manager Pete Hiryak. The manager declined to comment further on that specific issue after the meeting.
On May 20, 2013, Solicitor Paul Bauer read Theil's resignation letter to the public as well as a press release, according to the meeting minutes. "Unfortunately, the conduct of the past several meetings has focused on the conduct of various public officials, rather than the important job of running the township. In an effort to move the focus back to where it belongs, you the residents, Supervisor Fred Theil has voluntarily decided to resign his position as supervisor effective tonight."
According to the suit, Theil received a phone call from a person representing the corps in December 2012 requesting to move the debris to Mountain Mulch. It alleges that Theil granted the request without contacting "any other supervisors, zoning board members or Douglass Township officials in general." Theil took the call on a Saturday, according to May 6, 2013 meeting minutes posted on the township's website. "You don't say no to the Army Corp of Engineers," Theil said, according to the minutes.
The supervisor stepped down as chairman of the board during the May 6, 2013 meeting.
In November, the supervisors – including Anthony Kuklinski, Theil's appointed successor – intended to cite Mountain Mulch for operating a portable tub grinder in violation of rules set by the township's zoning hearing board, according to the meeting minutes.
In April, a tri-party agreement – which included the township, Mountain Mulch and six area residents – was reached and the business will cease all mulching operations, vacate the property or sell the property by the end of the year, according to Hyriak.
He said that the business would be granted a three-month extension if an alternative is not finalized by Dec. 31.
The property appears to be for sale. Freestyle Real Estate, based in Barto, is the listing agency, according to a sign posted in front of the business along Sassmansville Road.