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South Huntingdon animal shelter landlord gets probation in trespassing case

| Thursday, May 5, 2016, 11:00 p.m.

A South Huntingdon woman accused of trespassing on property she rents to the Yukon Pet Adoption League will serve a year of probation under terms of a plea bargain that calls for her not to have any contact with the animal shelter.

Barbara Flanigan, 67, on Thursday entered no-contest pleas to charges of defiant trespass, harassment and disorderly conduct in two separate cases.

Flanigan is accused of blocking a water truck on the shelter's Spring Street property in October 2014 and ignoring a no-trespass order the following month. Flanigan said she is innocent of the charges, but she told Judge Meagan Bilik-DeFazio she entered the pleas to avoid a possible jury conviction and incarceration.

“The only reason is because I talked to Miss (Tamara) Mahady and she says it's probably in my best interest to do this, rather than go to jail,” Flanigan said. “I'll do it just because of that.”

Mahady is Flanigan's public defender. A plea of no contest is not an admission of guilt, but it is treated as such for sentencing purposes.

Bilik-DeFazio ordered Flanigan to continue with mental health treatment and to limit her contact with the shelter to periodic inspections of the property. Flanigan is to relay messages to the shelter via their attorney, Ashley Lovelace of Greensburg.

Flanigan said it will be difficult to limit contact with the shelter because it's on the same property as her house, which sits next door, and some utility costs are shared. In addition, she accused shelter personnel of harassing her.

“These people say hurtful things about my husband, who died building that shelter,” Flanigan said. “You really think ... I'll walk away, and say nothing?”

Bilik-DeFazio advised Flanigan to ignore the alleged harassment.

“You need to have no response,” Bilik-DeFazio said. “You need to keep your mouth shut.”

Lovelace denied Flanigan's allegations. She declined additional comment, citing an ongoing civil case in which the shelter is attempting to “work out a resolution” with Flanigan.

In the civil case, Flanigan is attempting to evict the shelter on the grounds it violated its 99-year lease when it allowed insurance coverage to lapse in 2014. The shelter since 2001 has paid Flanigan $1 a year to lease the property.

Flanigan blamed the lease for the ongoing feud.

“All of this is just the fact they rent my property for a dollar a year,” Flanigan said. “I founded it. I ran it for 25 years. Then they wanted to get rid of me.”

Flanigan has been at odds with the shelter for a number of years, contending it reneged on an agreement to pay her property taxes as compensation for low rent. She founded the shelter more than 25 years ago and was a board member until she was fired as its director in November 2013.

In court Thursday, Flanigan lamented about not having access to the rented portion of her property.

“I can't even walk across my own property … without being charged with trespassing,” Flanigan said. “They rent from me. It seems incredibly unfair where this whole thing is.”

Liz Zemba is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-601-2166 or lzemba@tribweb.com.

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