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.htmlEndFragment