One of Logan Township's insurance providers paid $110,000 to settle a federal lawsuit accusing the township of discriminating against low-to-moderate income and minority residents, the Mirror has learned.
Neither the township, its representatives or its insurance provider admitted wrongdoing, Chester County attorney Andrew Bellwoar said this week.
"It just got to the point where we negotiated a low-enough settlement that the insurance company was saying: 'If you can settle for $110,000, then do it,'" Bellwoar, who represented the township and the insurance company, said. "It was truly a business decision."
Hemlock Crossing LLC, the Ohio development company that wanted to build low-income housing on acreage where Logan Township built its municipal building, sued the township in March 2007 after supervisors voted to use eminent domain power to seize the land for public use.
Hemlock objected to the township's seizure and said its actions were intended to prevent low-income families and minorities from affording housing in the township.
With support of Altoona-area parents Amy Holsinger and Shawn and Carla Pennabaker who expressed interest in the proposed housing, Hemlock sued and accused the township of violating the Federal Fair Housing Act.
Repeated attempts to reach attorney Donald Graham, who represented Hemlock and the Altoona-area parents in the lawsuit, for comment were unsuccessful.
The settlement with the $110,000 payment was signed in September and filed with the U.S. District Court in Johnstown. A settlement check would have been issued shortly thereafter by the township's insurance provider, Bellwoar said.
Logan Township belongs to and holds insurance protection through Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Risk Management Association or PIRMA, township Finance Director Tiffany Noonan said.
The company, founded in 1987, offers its members a variety of insurance options.
"It was the insurance company that made the decision to settle this," Bellwoar said. "There was no township money paid out in this settlement and no decisions were made by the township."
Legal expenses were covered through PIRMA, Bellwoar said.
While Hemlock's suit was filed not only against the township but also against then-supervisors Frank Meloy, James Patterson and Jerry Fulare, Bellwoar said the supervisors were removed from the lawsuit during the negotiating process.
The federal lawsuit was the second legal challenge Logan Township faced over its municipal building project.
Hemlock also sued the township in Blair County Court, challenging the legality of the seizure and the price paid. In that case, the court found the seizure to be legal. A jury ruled in March 2011 that the township owed Hemlock $566,830 for the land. Because the township previously paid $250,000 for the land, it had to write another check for $316,830.
Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.