Almost two years after she filed a criminal harassment complaint that was ultimately dismissed, Springettsbury Township Supervisor Julie Landis has filed a federal lawsuit, in part for the same incident.
Landis' lawsuit is filed in Harrisburg's U.S. District Court against fellow supervisors Donald Bishop and Bill Schenck as well as against Springettsbury Township. She is seeking more than $150,000, plus punitive damages, interests, costs, attorney fees, and damages.
The lawsuit alleges that on April 28, 2011, Landis asked a question at a supervisors' meeting regarding "the validity of setting up campaign signs on township property in support of various candidates running for township supervisor."
Landis alleges that after the meeting ended, she approached Schenck, who spoke to her in a derogatory manner and accused her of being affiliated with a nonprofit group that opposed Schenck's re-election.
'Chest-bump' alleged: The lawsuit alleges that at the same meeting, Landis was approached by Bishop, who "walked up within inches from Plaintiff's body while clenching his fist with one hand, poured water on her leg with his other hand, he then chest-bumped her two times, spat on Plaintiff and used profane language in order to harass and intimidate Plaintiff."
The lawsuit claims Bishop and Schenck continued to single out Landis for ridicule and mistreatment, including "telling her she knows nothing because she is a woman and telling her she has 'no opinion on this Board.'"
The lawsuit also claims Landis received threatening letters at her home, and that Bishop and Schenck either were directly involved or knew about the letters.
'Nonsense': Bishop and Schenck said the allegations aren't true.
"Julie Landis has been trying to make smoke where there is no fire (and) to create controversy where none exists throughout her tenure on the board of supervisors," Schenck said. "I hope that once this lawsuit is dismissed, this nonsense will stop."
Bishop called it a sad situation.
Timing questioned: Both men expressed suspicion at the timing of the lawsuit.
Schenck noted Landis is involved in the group "Operation Take Back Springettsbury Township 2013," which is promoting candidates in the upcoming election.
"I find the timing (of the lawsuit) very suspicious," he said. "We have to remember that anyone can sue anyone else for any reason at any time."
Bishop said he's "not at all surprised to see (the lawsuit filed) in conjunction with an election, because that seems to be her pattern."
Landis said the timing of the suit was necessary to avoid an impending expiration of a two-year statute of limitations in the earlier case.
"So I had to make a decision and I made that decision solely on myself as an individual," she said. "It was not politically motivated."
The dismissal of that complaint was "not a not-guilty verdict" and meant only that there wasn't enough information to bring forth charges, she said.
Landis said it's unfortunate the suit needed to be filed, and she tried to work both men.
She said the amount of damages in the case is dictated by a statute and she had no control over it.
Springettsbury Township manager John Holman declined comment because the matter involves pending litigation.
The background: The night of the alleged confrontation, Landis filed a harassment complaint with township police. They forwarded it to state police for investigation and on May 6, 2011, a summary harassment charge was filed against Bishop.
The charge was dismissed at a June 2011 summary trial presided over by Senior District Judge Paul M. Diehl.
At the time, the judge had harsh words for Bishop and other township officials.
"You may not have met the requirement of harassment, but you all met the requirement of fifth-graders," Diehl said. "You were successful in getting negative publicity for the township."
-- Reach Lauren McLane at firstname.lastname@example.org. Staff writer Liz Evans Scolforo contributed to this report.