Businessman sues city over law enforcement | News, sports, jobs

An Altoona businessman has filed a federal lawsuit alleging he has been unfairly harassed by the city’s code enforcement office for at least the past seven years.

Shlomo Dotan, whose residence is the 300 block of Aldrich Street, complains that he has been the victim of disparate treatment by city officials who have repeatedly taken action against him for alleged code violations at two rental properties, in the 200 block of 27th Street and the 300 block. From 25th Street, and at his home.

Dotan is seeking compensatory damages, punitive damages, as well as attorneys’ fees, costs and lost interest.

The city’s action caused him “excessive financial burdens, including construction costs, loss of income, damage to his reputation, loss of interest income, and loss of profits,” according to the legal petition he filed last week in federal district court. In Johnstown.

A spokesperson for the city manager’s office noted that officials do not comment on legal matters.

City Attorney Tom Finn commented that Dotan’s claims were “baseless” and that the city intended to “vigorously defend” its position. The city will be represented by Pittsburgh attorney Susan B. Myrick in the federal case.

Finn noted that Dotan has been found guilty of numerous violations of the law.

Dotan, who is represented by attorney Greta M. Kaiser, of Kittanning, noted that he operated the two rental properties on 25th Street and 27th Street for many years without any problems with the city.

He stated that prior to 2011, the city passed an ordinance “to inspect rental properties for their maintenance and safety and to prevent property deterioration.”

In addition, city law requires the registration of vacant homes.

The idea behind the ordinance, according to Dotan, is to prevent blight and the arrival of transients and seek to rehabilitate vacant buildings.

He stated that between 2011 and 2015, he paid fees and registered his rental properties.

At that time, he said, his property was found to be “clean and safe.”

Dotan said his problems with the city began in 2016 when a neighbor called the city to ask him to paint the rental property in the 900 block of 27th Street.

He said a code enforcement officer sent him a letter — which he said he did not receive until May 11, 2017 — outlining four alleged violations of the property maintenance code.

Dotan noted that his tenant on 27th Street had allowed trash and debris to accumulate on the porch.

He said he was able to remove the items from the porch and do what the city wanted, except paint the exterior.

He stated that he made attempts to paint the house but was unable to complete the task due to bad weather conditions.

He stated that the city continued to issue citations to the 27th Street property and the tenant stopped paying rent.

“The City of Altoona’s method of inspecting and demanding repairs constitutes a form of harassment,” his lawsuit stated.

The tenant eventually left the property in 2019, and Dotan said the city condemned the house and eventually demolished it.

Another of his rental properties in the 300 block of 25th Street was cited for 12 code violations.

A District Court judge convicted Dotan on 10 of those charges.

Dotan confirms that the city inspector advised the tenant not to pay rent until the problems were addressed and the property was registered.

Dotan said he had to take eviction actions against the tenants of both properties, ultimately resulting in thousands of dollars in lost income.

Dotan claims in his lawsuit that he “was singled out, resulting in a high level of disparate treatment by the City of Altoona.”

Back at his home on Aldrich Street, Dotan shut off water service there and in the city. “He assumed the property was vacant and sent a letter to him on October 19, 2016, asking him to pay $1,000 to register a vacant property,” he said. expenses.”

His claim states that the property was not vacant.

In 2018, he said, the city sent him a letter asking him to come up to the Aldrich Street home. A sign was also placed on the house stating that it was empty.

The home was undergoing foreclosure proceedings at the time, but they have since been dropped, he said.

Dotan explained that his repeated confrontations with the City Council cost him more than $3,200 in fines, which are being appealed in Blair County Circuit Court.

He also stated that he was arrested three times and taken to prison.

His lawsuit accuses the city of negligence in inspecting his property. Interfering with the contracts concluded between him and the tenants; Abuse of process where the city “hated” him and discriminated against him; Lack of due process; deprivation of his rights under the equal protection clause of the Constitution; And false imprisonment.

He also charges that the city’s demolition of his 27th Street property occurred without a declaration of seizure or just compensation, in violation of his constitutional rights.

District Judge Kim R. Gibson in Johnstown has been appointed to preside over Dotan’s lawsuit.

Gibson signed an order Tuesday for the city to submit its response by Aug. 31.

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