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Runkle files multi-million-dollar
 print shop-related lawsuit

Richard D. L. Fulton
Emmitsburg Dispatch

(9/21) David and Donna Runkle (Custom Image Printing) have filed a collective $2.7 million lawsuit against former commissioner Arthur Elder, Chronicle Press Inc. co-owner Lisa Elder, property owner Jim Hess and Commissioner William B. O'Neil Jr.

The Runkles' attorney notified them on Sept. 5 that a lawsuit had been filed in state district court. See related story, "Lawsuit likely to follow dismissal of bankruptcy complaint" in the Nov. 17, 2005, issue of The Dispatch.

In summary, the six counts listed in the 15-page complaint range from abuse of governmental authority to contractual issues relating to the Runkles' acquisition of Chronicle Press from its previous owner Arthur Elder. Specific allegations vary according to the defendants.

Chronicle Press, under Runkle ownership, filed for bankruptcy in 2003. David Runkle claimed that the enterprise failed due largely to complications created by Arthur Elder. The Runkles say that after they sold the building to Hess, he breached their contract of sale.

Regarding Lisa Elder's involvement, she and Christopher Price ultimately acquired Chronicle Press from Arthur Elder. The Runkles allege that Lisa Elder provided false information to Hess, leading to his alleged breach of contract with Runkle, and further, that she interfered with Custom Image Printing operations.

The Runkles allege O'Neil abused his authority as a commissioner and attempted to influence town staff into investigating Runkle's operations.

David Runkle was also one of the complainants who triggered the 2005 ethics investigation that concluded with O'Neil and Elder being found by the ethics commissions to have violated the town ethics code.

The complaints:

  • Tortious interference with contractual relations: Donna Runkle against Art Elder and Lisa Elder, $200,000 in compensatory damages and $300,000 in punitive damages, with interest and costs.
  • Tortious interference with prospective advantage: against Lisa Elder, $200,000 in compensatory damages and $300,000 in punitive damages, with interest and costs.
  • Tortious interference with prospective advantage: Donna Runkle against William B. O'Neil Jr., Arthur Elder, jointly and severally, $200,000 in compensatory damages, and $300,000 in punitive damages with interest and costs.
  • Malicious use of process: David Runkle against William B. O'Neil Jr., Arthur Elder and Lisa Elder, jointly and severally, $200,000 in compensatory damages and $300,000 in punitive damages with interest and costs.
  • Civil conspiracy: David and Donna Runkle against William B. O'Neil Jr., Arthur Elder and Lisa Elder, jointly and severally, $200,000 in compensatory damages and $300,000 in punitive damages with interest and costs.
  • Breach of contract: Donna Runkle against James Hess: $200,000 in compensatory damages, with interest and costs.

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