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Civil Lawsuit Filed Against Pennsburg Fire Company
Written by Kelly Chandler, Staff Writer

                A sitting councilwoman, former councilman and former mayor from Pennsburg borough have filed a civil lawsuit in Montgomery County Court against Pennsburg Fire Company and three of its members.

                The suit, filed by Attorney Adam Sager of Sager and Sager Associates in Pottstown on behalf of plaintiffs Diane Stevens, John Kevin and Charles Shagg, was entered into court records Nov. 13.  It alleges the fire company failed to follow its by-laws, according to court documents, and seeks $50,000 or less in damages.

                Judge Thomas C. Branca has been assigned to hear the case.

                In addition to the fire company, located at 501 Penn Street in the borough, the lawsuit also seeks a monetary judgment against members Cody Belmont, Brenda Koder and Scott Seip.  According to Sager, the defendants are responsible for revoking the lifetime memberships of Stevens, Kevin and Shagg last year.

                "The plaintiffs had their lifetime memberships revoked without any explanation," Sager said.  "There was no due process notification, no indication it was going to occur and no hearing."

                Sager said Stevens only found out about the membership revocation after reviewing the fire company's minutes for what he described as "another matter."  Sager said he had been attempting to reach the fire company's attorney for several months to no avail.

                When asked about the suit, Stevens and Shagg referred all questions to Sager, while repeated attempts to reach John Kevin were unsuccessful.

                According to fire company minutes dated June 12, 2013, then president Scott Seip asked for a motion to revoke the life memberships of Diane Stevens and her husband, Wayne, Kevin and Shagg "due to negative actions directed towards the fire company."  Koder made the motion while Belmont seconded it, the minutes reflect.

                Seip, the company's chief, who said he later stepped down as an officer due to job constraints, stated the memberships were honorary and were given to the individuals back in the early 2000's due to their efforts on behalf of the fire company.  Lifetime memberships are normally bestowed on individuals with 20 years or more of active service with the company, Seip said. 

                He said the fire company's by-laws state, however, that they have "every opportunity to get rid of a member at any time."  

                He said in the early 2000's, Diane Stevens, Kevin and Shagg actively helped the fire company with fundraisers and, while on council, Stevens and Kevin helped institute a fire tax that funded vital operations for the organization.  But soon after Seip said the fire tax was repealed by council and the same individuals were responsible for negativity toward the company and questioned many of its actions.

                According to Seip, Shagg last attended a Pennsburg Fire Company meeting Aug. 10, 2004 while Diane Stevens and Kevin last attended a meeting Sept. 14, 2004.  

                Seip said it's the first time the fire company is being sued in 34 years. To date, Seip, Koder and Belmont have not been served with court papers for the suit.

                "Really, I think it's low," Seip said.  "Over membership things when they're not even active in the fire company?  They want nothing to do with the fire company.  It upsets me. [A monetary judgment against the fire company] would hurt us drastically.  We would have to try to come up with extra money when everybody is hurting for money."

                Seip said the company is funded by a combination of municipal and individual and business donations.  In 2014, Pennsburg contributed $90,000 to the company and Upper Hanover gave $40,000.  Seip said the company occasionally is awarded state grants for equipment or debt reduction, but is mainly subsidized by the people of the Upper Perkiomen Valley.

                Seip said the fire company is no longer using the law offices of Stephen Shelly of Quakertown but is looking to hire an Allentown firm as their new attorney.

                Koder, who currently serves as  secretary and treasurer of Pennsburg's Fire Police, said she is disappointed in the suit.

                "I don't think it's right.  They haven't been active in the fire company for 10 years and to do it over something so petty.  I don't understand how you can come back on a volunteer organization and do something like this." 

                Belmont, Pennsburg borough's emergency management coordinator and a current councilman, said he believes the trio is using the fire company's goodwill for personal gain.

                "When you threaten the fire company in any way you are no longer deserving of such an honor," he said.  "To go after a volunteer non-profit fire company on these grounds is not only cowardly but it's a disrespect to those who risk their lives to protect the community.

                "No matter what the outcome, our dedication to the citizens we serve won't waiver," he added.





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