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O’Neil’s motion to dismiss lawsuit is denied

Jeremy Hauck
The Gazette

(2/22) A U.S. district court judge denied a motion to dismiss a lawsuit against Emmitsburg Commissioner Bill O’Neil on Feb. 7.

O’Neil, in office since April 2004, filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit filed against him by David and Donna Runkle, owners of the now-defunct Custom Image Printing of Emmitsburg.

The lawsuit charges O’Neil with malicious use of process and civil conspiracy in his alleged attempts to close down the Runkles’ business, Custom Image Printing, shortly after he came into office in 2004.

In his motion to dismiss, according to a memorandum from judge Catherine C. Blake, O’Neil claims immunity from the lawsuit, arguing that all of his alleged actions ‘‘were carried out in his capacity as an elected official."

Blake wrote in her decision that acting with ‘‘an evil or rancorous motive influenced by hate ... precludes immunity even if [O’Neil] was acting in his official capacity."

‘‘The plaintiffs adequately allege that this type of malice motivated Mr. O’Neil," Blake continued.

According to the memorandum, the Runkles allege that O’Neil asked an Emmitsburg permit inspector to inspect their printing business, Custom Image Printing, which the Runkles operated out of their home.

The Runkles started the business when they lost their former business, Chronicle Press, and the printing equipment and building at 107 S. Seton Ave.

The lawsuit alleges that O’Neil acted on behalf of the business interests of former town Commissioner Arthur Elder, who had sold the building and business to the Runkles in 1999. Elder was a commissioner from April 2002 until April 2005, and was also a member of Citizens Organized to Preserve Emmitsburg, a political action group organized by O’Neil.

O’Neil, who is representing himself in the lawsuit, said Wednesday that there is no date set for a civil trial.

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