Council members call for probe of RRA document incident

Seizure of documents unconstitutional, they say

WFMZ News report

READING, Pa. - Several members of Reading City Council are asking state and federal law enforcement authorities to investigate what they said was an "illegal seizure" of documents by city officials.

Four council members said the Reading Redevelopment Authority, an autonomous agency that leases City Hall office space from the city, tried to take approximately two dozen boxes of its files out of the building on January 22 and move them to the authority's long-term storage facility at the Third and Spruce Recreation Center, which it has used for the last 25 years.

"For about the last nine months, (starting in the summer of 2017) I began the process of boxing up old files that had been in filing cabinets and on shelves in our offices that were old and of projects that had been closed," Dennis Witwer, an RRA employee, said in a letter outlining the incident.

In a timeline of the incident, the council members -- Vice President John Slifko, Donna Reed, Lucine Sihelnik, and Stratton Marmarou -- said a heated argument erupted between the authority employees and city officials, including J.D. Krafczek, acting city solicitor, who brought city police with him.

The ordeal ended with Krafczek ordering RPD officers to return the files to City Hall, the councilors said.

"The seizure, made without appropriate warrant, is, to us, a clear violation of the fourth amendment of the U.S. Constitution," the councilors wrote in letters to the Pennsylvania attorney general, the U.S. attorney's office for eastern Pennsylvania, and the FBI field office in Philadelphia, adding that the city had no right to stop the files from being moved.

The files were eventually transferred to the redevelopment authority's storage facility 11 days later, after the authority's solicitor, Keith Mooney, advised Krafczek that the files do not belong to the city.

"Those records should be returned to the RRA immediately," Mooney wrote in his letter to Krafczek. "As you are aware, theft is an illegal action, and since the theft occurred in the city of Reading and the city police have an obvious conflict in this matter, I will be forced to have my client contact the state police in the event the RRA records are not returned to the custody and control of the RRA."

On February 5, Mayor Wally Scott sent letter to Managing Director Glenn Steckman, advising administrative staff "that there is to be no contact with members of City Council regarding the Reading Redevelopment Authority incident of January 22, 2018."

"We are asking you to consider a formal investigation into this matter," the councilors said to the law enforcement officials.

Along with the letters, officials forwarded a chronology of the events that transpired on January 22.

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