W. Donegal 'Copygate' suit goes on
BY DAN NEPHIN, Staff Writer
West Donegal Supervisor Chairman Roger Snyder is continuing his lawsuit accusing state and municipal officials and a former political opponent of conspiring to derail his 2007 reelection bid.
On Wednesday, Snyder filed notice he would appeal a recent federal District Court judge's ruling that effectively dismissed the case.
The one-page notice does not give reasons for the appeal.
Messages left at Snyder's home Thursday and Friday weren't immediately returned, nor were messages left for his attorney.
In his May 2009 lawsuit, Snyder accused the defendants of conducting an elaborate sting during his reelection campaign to trap him in what's been dubbed "copygate."
Snyder had used township equipment and staff to make copies of campaign materials for his 2007 re-election bid during the May primary.
He acknowledged doing so.
Snyder said staff did the work voluntarily and that he paid for the copies.
Snyder said he thought everything was OK when the supervisors approved the receipt of his payments at a public meeting.
In July 2007, Supervisor Ralph Horne, then a private citizen, filed a complaint with the State Ethics Commission. Another complaint was filed that August by Charles Kraus, then chief of Northwest Regional Police.
Five days before the 2007 general election, Snyder again asked a township employee to copy campaign literature.
Then on Election Day, someone distributed fliers stating the ethics commission was investigating Snyder.
The fliers were distributed on behalf of Keith Murphy, who was challenging Snyder. Murphy has testified he didn't distribute the fliers or know who made them.
Snyder was re-elected, and the Ethics Commission cleared him of wrongdoing in 2008.
Snyder then sued Murphy and Horne along with former township supervisor Charlie Tupper, former manager Nick Viscome, roadmaster Jeff Templin, and four Pennsylvania Ethics Commission employees.
Snyder claimed they conspired in launching an investigation into his actions by the Ethics Commission, including allowing him to make more copies, then including that in their complaint.
Snyder contends his First Amendment right to run for office was violated and that his standing in the community was damaged.
On Feb. 20, U.S. District Court Judge Lawrence Stengel adopted the findings of Magistrate Judge Martin Carlson that no violations occurred.
Carlson found no evidence "that the township defendants conspired among themselves, or with one or more members of the Ethics Commission, or with Keith Murphy, in furtherance of an alleged scheme to violate the plaintiff's First Amendment rights."
Carlson also found Snyder "has not identified any evidence to show that his campaign efforts were curtailed in any way, or that the defendants somehow chilled his political activity or hindered his campaign."
Snyder, voted by his fellow board members in January to a second year as chairman, is seeking unspecified damages.
Anthony Sherr, an attorney representing the township defendants, said Thursday, "We are disappointed that Mr. Snyder chose to appeal the lower court's ruling."
Horne said the case has cost the borough nearly $21,000 so far in its solicitor's work and payroll for employees during depositions. The figure doesn't include work by the borough's insurer.