A decade-long conflict between a fiscal officer and trustee of Orange Township has now become a legal issue.
Orange Township Fiscal Officer Joel Spitzer filed a civil complaint Wednesday (Sept. 20) in Delaware County Common Pleas Court, Civil Division alleging harassment against a group that includes Trustee Lisa Knapp.
Others named in the lawsuit along with Knapp are Todd A. Daviso, Susan F. Tobias, and other unknown defendants. All of the defendants either maintain places of business or residences in Delaware County.
Spitzer is requesting that the court grant restraining orders against the parties named in the filing and award him compensatory damages totaling approximately $1.1 million.
“It’s a frivolous lawsuit,” said Trustee Lisa Knapp when The Gazette broke the news to her of Spitzer’s filing. “I think it’s an attempt to shut me up.”
Knapp said she believes the complaint is Spitzer’s response to a letter that her attorney sent to him regarding her personnel file when she was employed by the township.
Spitzer was contacted for comment, but declined and referred The Gazette to his attorney Adam Chaudry of Chaudry Law LLC, Powell. Chaudry declined to comment.
In the court filing, Spitzer stated: “Defendant Lisa Knapp acting alone and at times in concert with defendant Daviso, defendant Tobias and others has been making false and defamatory statements about the plaintiff for up to six years both on defendant Knapp’s personal blog and on her official trustee and personal Facebook pages.”
Included in the filing are several photocopies of pages posted on Knapp’s blog, both her personal and township Facebook pages, and her YouTube account. According to documentation contained in the complaint, Daviso and Tobias regularly comment on Knapp’s posts.
“Not one thing that I’ve written or posted has not been from public records,” Knapp said. “It’s freedom of speech, I’m allowed to say those things.”
Spitzer’s court filing alleges: “Defendant(s) and Knapp frequently posts and causes posts to be shared, disparaging misinterpretations of the truth in order to make Plaintiff (Spitzer) look unhinged, untrustworthy, unable to serve the public, and incompetent.”
Photocopies provided in Spitzer’s filing show that Knapp’s posts contain newspaper articles and official documents from local entities involving Spitzer.
Comments and opinions posted around the articles and documents disparage Spitzer personally, professionally, and as an elected official, according to the complaint.
“Defendant Knapp has and continues to make outrageously false claims regarding plaintiff’s integrity as Orange Township Fiscal Officer,” Spitzer states in the court filing.
“I have specifically kept out of his personal life,” Knapp said. “Joel Spitzer has personally tormented me and my family for years.”
No hearing has been scheduled regarding the complaint, but a summons to appear in court has been issued to Knapp.
D. Anthony Botkin may be reached at 740-413-0902 or on Twitter @dabotkin.