Commonwealth v. Pappert

Man charged with harassment for complaining to goverment officials about air pollution issues in his neighborhood

Court/Assoc.: Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County

Attorneys/Firms: Bruce Boni; Sara Rose (ACLU-PA)

In July 2008, the ACLU of Pennsylvania has filed an appeal to Superior Court on behalf of Bridgeville resident Marshall Pappert, who was found guilty of harassment after he complained to the Bridgeville borough manager about the noise and pollution caused by a concrete manufacturing plant across the street from his home.

At a July 16, 2008 hearing, Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas Judge Robert Gallo found that Pappert should have known that the borough manager did not have the authority to act on Pappert's complaints and instead should have contacted his elected officials. Pappert was never told he was communicating with the wrong person. According to the borough's Web site, the borough manager "take[s] care of the day-to-day operations, implement[s] policy decisions and coordinate[s] activities of other Borough departments."

Bridgeville police charged Pappert with harassment after he left a message on the borough manager's office answering machine in which he accused her of failing to investigate alleged environmental violations by the concrete plant and asked her to resign. He was cited under the subsection of the statute that prohibits "engaging in a course of conduct that serves no legitimate purpose."

Before being charged, Pappert, who had been appointed by his neighbors as the spokesperson for the street, had written to numerous agencies asking for help in alleviating the plant's air pollution and noise. His repeated letters to the Allegheny County Department of Health eventually resulted in inspections and two citations to the company for air pollution violations.

On April 7, 2010, the Superior Court overturned Pappert's conviction.

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