Harrisburg landlord denies tenants run drug house

Landlord denies claims his tenants run drug house

Harrisburg landlord John B. Weigle Jr., speaking from the witness stand Monday in Richmond County Magistrate Court, said he doesn't know anything about any drug dealing going on at his rental house at 223 Eve St.

A woman lives there with her two grandchildren, whom she's been raising since her daughter died of cancer, and Weigle said he wouldn't mind living next door to them.

"I would be glad to," he said.

The property has been the subject of three protests by neighborhood activists -- one outside Weigle's home in the Forest Hills subdivision.

Lori Davis, the president of the Harrisburg-West End Neighborhood Association, called the Eve Street home a "known neighborhood drug house" when she filed a small-claims complaint against Weigle in March.

Davis had her day in court Monday, telling Judge William D. Jennings III that she has been trying since 2007 to get Weigle to come to the table to resolve issues she has with his tenants but that he's been dodging her.

She's suing him for $5,000, which includes her donation toward bringing nuisance-properties expert John H. Campbell to Augusta earlier this year to talk to a commission committee she sits on.

Jennings didn't rule on the case Monday, but he's expected to before week's end. Weigle's attorney, Jack Long, asked him to dismiss the complaint because state law holds that landlords can't be held responsible to third parties for tenants' behavior.

The judge held off after Davis pointed out the state's nuisance and disorderly house codes.

Davis also called a witness: Charlotte Ginn, a children's pastor at Harrisburg's Bible Deliverance Temple. She described how she, pastor Kelly McKnight and his wife once passed by the Eve Street house and saw a woman who rented a unit from the church's Another Chance Ministry Network homeless outreach.

She was "looking sick," broke down and cried in the church office when confronted, and flunked a drug test, Ginn said.

Davis has said she doesn't expect to win the lawsuit, but she wants to prove homeowners have no recourse against problem landlords without a chronic nuisance properties ordinance.

Making the same statement, activist Butch Palmer filed two $15,000 Magistrate Court claims in March -- one against Joe Smith, the owner of the building at 1739 Fenwick St. that houses Mercy Ministries, and the other against the ministry itself.

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