Fayette County woman sues over township zoning flap

| Monday, June 25, 2012, 12:04 a.m.

A Fayette County woman has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit alleging a zoning officer and three elected supervisors retaliated against her when she questioned their attempts to enforce an ordinance pertaining to a dachshund-breeding business that she ran out of her Washington Township home.

Marilynn Carraway-Roebuck, formerly of 319 First St., alleges in the 28-page filing in U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh that she was forced to move out of her home as a result. Named as defendants are the township's zoning and code enforcement officer Timothy Naulty and Supervisors Charles Yusko, Arnie Dull and Jamie Miller.

Yusko on Sunday declined to comment. Naulty, Dull and Miller could not be reached for comment.

According to the filing by Connellsville attorney Derek J. Illar of Watson, Mundorff, Brooks and Sepic, Carraway-Roebuck began breeding dachshunds for sale shortly after she moved into the township in 1996. She started the business after then-Supervisor Joanne Latkanich advised her that she did not need a permit “to conduct any activity in connection with raising domestic animals on her property because of its zoning classification.”

That classification, according to the filing, is agricultural-residential.

Carraway-Roebuck ran the business, LeCaring's AKC Dachshunds, until at least May 2011, when she applied for a fence permit. When she told Naulty that she wanted to fence in part of her land to breed dogs, he told her that it was prohibited, despite Latkanich's earlier assertions, according to the lawsuit.

Carraway-Roebuck questioned Naulty's finding, but she was not provided with a copy of the ordinance, despite filing a Right to Know request, until her attorney intervened in June, according to the lawsuit. During that time period, according to the lawsuit, Carraway-Roebuck, in her interactions with Naulty, criticized the township and supervisors for failing to provide her with the applicable ordinances.

On May 3, Naulty sent Carraway-Roebuck a letter giving her “one final opportunity” to comply with the ordinances. She “took all action” to comply immediately and notified Naulty by telephone, the filing stated.

“He (Naulty), in an aggressive, hostile, and threatening manner, then replied, ‘we will file against you anyways, you're done, it's too late' and ‘you should just plead guilty or it will end really bad for you,'” according to the filing.

Naulty's “fiery indignation only intensified” when Carraway-Roebuck told him that she would “seek redress through the proper channels for the municipality's refusal” to give her a copy of the ordinances, according to the lawsuit.

“Upon hearing these remarks, Defendant Naulty snarled, ‘no one threatens me, your life will be a living hell, don't even try to fight this, don't try to defend yourself,' and ‘I will ride your ass from here to hell and back,'” according to the filing.

Allegedly at the supervisors' direction, Naulty filed the two citations on May 16, according to the lawsuit, as retaliation “for her criticisms.”

Carraway-Roebuck claims in the filing that she was targeted because of the complaints of an unidentified neighbor “who is a close, personal friend and political supporter of the elected officials in the municipality.”

In addition to alleging her right to free speech was violated, Carraway-Roebuck claims violations of due process and equal protection. She alleges the township has not filed against others in in similar situations.

According to the lawsuit, Carraway-Roebuck suffered emotional distress as a result of the township's actions and moved out of her home. She is now living in Dunbar, her website states. She is seeking unspecified damages.

Liz Zemba is a reporter for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-601-2166 or lzemba@tribweb.com.

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