A federal jury on Friday found not liable all the defendants in a suit brought by a Northeast man who claimed he was persecuted by employees of the city’s Community Life Improvement Project.
Stephen Tengood, 63, of Saul Street near Cottman, said CLIP workers and the city solicitor’s office violated his civil rights and that CLIP employees harassed him, trespassed on his property and stole from him. He also had maintained that CLIP was a corrupt organization.
The civil rights aspect of Tengood’s complaint put the suit into federal court, said Jeffrey Scott, who represented the city.
In his suit, Tengood said he was victimized by baseless code violation citations issued by CLIP workers and further stated the city solicitor’s office backed the CLIP workers. He said CLIP workers trespassed on his property to gather evidence that he was breaking city codes, and that they removed some personal property from outside his property on two occasions.
One of the defendants Tengood had named was Rycharde Sicinski, who in October pleaded guilty to stealing from four homes in the Northeast.
Sicinski, a CLIP inspector, was one of nine city workers who pleaded guilty to taking a total of more than $108,000 in cash and personal property. The case against him and the eight other CLIP employees was mentioned prominently in Tengood’s suit.
Scott said the evidence presented didn’t tie the other defendants in Tengood’s complaint to Sicinski or a criminal conspiracy.
“This case was very complicated,” Scott said in a phone interview on Monday. “There were a lot of dots to be connected, and the dots just weren’t connected.”
“An appeal is possible, however, unlikely at this stage,” Tengood’s attorney, Joshua Upin, stated in an e-mail to the Northeast Times.
“It’s not uncommon for plaintiffs to file these types of cases,” said Elizabeth Mattioni, chairwoman of the city solicitor’s litigation group. “These were very serious allegations, but the evidence wasn’t there to support the claim.”
Besides the city, Sicinski and the city solicitor’s office, Tengood had named Thomas Conway, CLIP’s co-director; Martin Higgins, a CLIP inspector; Roseanne Elia, a CLIP inspector; and Beverly Penn, a deputy city solicitor.
CLIP was set up in 2002 to address quality-of-life complaints in the Northeast. In late 2009, after a long grand jury probe, the nine CLIP defendants were arrested. Four of the nine pleaded guilty to various charges before a trial was scheduled to start in October 2011. Another defendant pleaded guilty before jurors were selected. The remaining four pleaded after the jury was picked.
All agreed to make restitution and all received prison sentences. No sentence was more than three years and most of the defendants were given work release. Some restitution has been made, and some of that was drawn from the city pensions of four of the CLIP workers. ••EndFragment