PHILADELPHIA — A lawsuit filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania against Jenkintown and four borough officials is continuing.
On Nov. 26, a motion was filed by the borough's attorney in the case, Suzanne McDonough, of Holsten & Associates, Media, seeking to have the lawsuit against the municipality and borough council President Deborra Pancoe, Vice President Richard Bunker, Borough Manager George Locke and Sean Kilkenny, the borough's solicitor, dismissed.
Following an amended complaint filed Dec. 10 by husband-and-wife residents David and Margaret Downs's attorney, William Fox, of Philadelphia, Judge Jan DuBois issued an order Dec. 12 denying the motion to dismiss as moot.
In the lawsuit, which was originally filed in October, the Downses say complaints about a neighbor operating a concrete business in an area zoned for residential use, which escalated into criminal acts for which the neighbor pleaded guilty, were dismissed by the borough officials as a "neighborly dispute."
When Margaret Downs, a registered Democrat, ran a write-in campaign in last year's mayoral race, the move was opposed by Kilkenny, Pancoe and Bunker, who are Jenkintown Democratic party leaders, the lawsuit says.
The Democratic party's endorsed candidate, Allyson Dobbs, who did not have a Republican party opponent, won the election. Downs received about 35 percent of the vote, the lawsuit says.
Following the election, the Downses were issued a zoning violation claiming they were operating a business at their home, the lawsuit says. That was subsequently dismissed in district court, but the Downs were then given a new violation notice, leading to an appeal hearing before the Jenkintown Borough Zoning Hearing Board, where the Downses again were vindicated, the lawsuit said.
Having to appeal the case to the zoning hearing board meant the Downses had to "incur substantial and considerable legal expense," the lawsuit said.
"At all times relevant, Defendants knew that Plaintiffs did not operate a business out of their home," the lawsuit alleges. "Despite knowing this fact, Defendants still charged Plaintiffs with violating the Jenkintown Zoning Code."
The suit also charges that "Jenkintown Borough failed to enforce the zoning code and/or selectively enforced the zoning code" for many years.
The suit asks for an unspecified amount of economic and compensatory damages, interest payments, attorney's fees, payment for pain and suffering and punitive damages.
"At all times relevant, Defendants retaliated against Plaintiffs because Ms. Downs exercised her First Amendment Rights to freedom of speech by running for public office, making Right to Know requests and because Plaintiffs spoke out with regard to issues that concern the public, including issues regarding unlawful practices, policies and customs of the Jenkintown Borough," the lawsuit said.
A call to McDonough's office for comment was not returned as of press time.