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Commissioners’ motion to dismiss denied

(3/1) Town commissioner William B. O’Neil, Jr. was denied a motion to dismiss allegations brought against him by former Emmitsburg residents David and Donna Runkle.

The Runkles’ suit was filed in September 2006 against O’Neil along with Arthur Elder and Lisa Elder, and Jim Hess, seeking compensatory and punitive damages totaling $2.7 million.

On Feb. 7, the U.S. District Court decided that claims against O’Neil would not be dismissed despite his argument that he was acting under the jurisdiction of his public office at the time. The court said that even if O’Neil were acting as a public official, which is uncertain, immunity is negated if he was acting with malice, which the Runkles “adequately allege.”

Runkle claims that O’Neil acted acrimoniously and with a desire to see his business fail. O’Neil is currently being sued for tortuous interference with prospective advantage, malicious use of process, and civil conspiracy.

Troubles first arose when Runkle filed for bankruptcy after claiming that Chronicle Press Inc., a business he purchased from Arthur Elder, had failed as a result of difficulties with Elder and inappropriate investigation on the part of O’Neil.

A year after Runkle filed for bankruptcy a complaint was filed against him by the U.S. Trustee Office, but was dismissed after being reviewed.

“We filed motions to dismiss their lawsuit because it was erroneous,” said David Runkle. “But I guess that’s not the case from their point.”

Claims against property owner James Hess will be “dismissed without prejudice” if the plaintiffs do not show good cause otherwise within 14 days.

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