Northeast Times

NE man brings lawsuit against city's CLIP

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A North­east man is su­ing the city and former city work­ers in fed­er­al court for what he’s claim­ing are years of per­se­cu­tion by the Com­munity Life Im­prove­ment Pro­gram.

The suit filed by Steph­en Ten­good, 63, of Saul Street near Cottman Av­en­ue, as­serts that CLIP, which was set up in 2002 to ad­dress qual­ity-of-life is­sues in the North­east, is a cor­rupt or­gan­iz­a­tion that crosses de­part­ment­al lines.

In his suit, Ten­good says he was giv­en many base­less code vi­ol­a­tions and that the city’s so­li­cit­or’s of­fice backed the CLIP work­ers when he ap­pealed the cita­tions. He said CLIP work­ers tres­passed on his prop­erty to take pho­tos of the in­teri­or to try to sup­port the cita­tions.

Ten­good’s suit al­leges the city vi­ol­ated rack­et­eer­ing and civil rights laws, ma­li­ciously pro­sec­uted him, tres­passed on his prop­erty and in­vaded his pri­vacy.

The city does not com­ment on law­suits, said Mark Mc­Don­ald, May­or Mi­chael Nut­ter’s spokes­man.

Joshua Up­in, Ten­good’s at­tor­ney, said CLIP work­ers con­tinu­ally vi­ol­ated his cli­ent’s rights, entered his prop­erty, took items from his prop­erty and tried to make his cli­ent look like a hoarder. Up­in said Ten­good’s prob­lems with CLIP ran from 2006 to 2011.

Up­in de­scribed his cli­ent as an ec­cent­ric who is “not a mod­el of or­gan­iz­a­tion and tidi­ness.” Up­in said Ten­good is no worse than any­body else on his block.

“What happened to Mr. Ten­good should not have happened,” he said, adding CLIP work­ers had no ac­count­ab­il­ity for their ac­tions amid a “cul­ture of in­com­pet­ence and stu­pid­ity.”

In a phone in­ter­view last week, Up­in said he ex­pec­ted his cli­ent’s case to be­gin this week in the fed­er­al court­house at Sixth and Arch streets.

In ad­di­tion to the city, Ten­good names as de­fend­ants Thomas Con­way, CLIP’s co-dir­ect­or; Mar­tin Hig­gins, a CLIP in­spect­or; Roseanne Elia, a CLIP in­spect­or, and Beverly Penn, a deputy chief city so­li­cit­or.

Also one of the de­fend­ants is Rycharde Si­c­in­ski, an L&I in­spect­or who in Oc­to­ber pleaded guilty to ran­sack­ing four North­east homes by us­ing the pre­tense he and eight oth­er de­fend­ants who worked for CLIP were clean­ing out un­safe and un­san­it­ary build­ings. Pro­sec­utors put the value of the cash, guns, jew­elry and oth­er per­son­al prop­erty the CLIP de­fend­ants stole at more than $100,000.

That’s nowhere near the worth of what Ten­good said was re­moved from his prop­erty’s ex­ter­i­or on two oc­ca­sions, said his at­tor­ney. That amoun­ted to a homemade dog­house and gro­cer­ies bought in bulk that Up­in said Ten­good was in the pro­cess of tak­ing in­to his house.

Ten­good’s suit makes ref­er­ence to the grand jury in­vest­ig­a­tion that led to the late 2009 ar­rests of Si­c­in­ski and eight oth­er cur­rent or former city em­ploy­ees who were ac­cused of steal­ing per­son­al pos­ses­sions from four North­east homes and ter­ror­iz­ing their res­id­ents. Four of the de­fend­ants pleaded guilty be­fore Oc­to­ber 2011, when the re­main­ing de­fend­ants were to be tried. One pleaded guilty be­fore jur­ors were se­lec­ted and the last four pleaded guilty be­fore the tri­al ac­tu­ally began.

None of the de­fend­ants got more than a three-year max­im­um sen­tence and many were al­lowed work-re­lease. All agreed to make resti­tu­tion to their vic­tims.

Pro­sec­utors asked the court to or­der the city’s pen­sion board to tap the de­fend­ants’ city pen­sions to help make that resti­tu­tion. Only four, in­clud­ing Si­c­in­ski, had any money in their pen­sions that could be taken, ac­cord­ing to Mark Murphy, the city’s deputy pen­sion dir­ect­or, and that amoun­ted to a little more than $20,000.

Si­c­in­ski lost more than $13,000 of his pen­sion. He is one of just two of the nine who have made com­plete resti­tu­tion to the vic­tims, ac­cord­ing to court dock­ets. More than $77,000 still is owed to the CLIP vic­tims, and some of the CLIP de­fend­ants already are out of jail.

Be­sides resti­tu­tion, Com­mon Pleas Court as­sessed the de­fend­ants for fines and fees, which are col­lec­ted be­fore the vic­tims get their money. For ex­ample, one de­fend­ant owed $13,253.59 in resti­tu­tion and $1,314.94 in court costs and fees. He already has paid $13,282.52, but since the costs and fees were taken first, his vic­tims still were owed $1,286.01 as of Ju­ly 13. ••

See the grand jury re­port on CLIP at  ht­tp://www.phila.gov/dis­trictat­tor­ney/grand­Jury_­Gun­Traf­fick­ing.html

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You can reach at jloftus@bsmphilly.com.

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