WILKES-BARRE — A West Pittston couple has sued the borough, saying it kept a buyout program of flood-damaged properties effectively a secret after it advertised it only one time in a local newspaper.
Richard and Kimberly Hazzouri filed their suit in county court in September through attorneys Joseph Quinn, Michelle Quinn and Richard Williams of Hourigan, Kluger & Quinn.
According to the filing, the borough participated in the Luzerne County Disaster Recovery Buyout Program Operations Plan after devastating flooding in 2011. However, the Hazzouris say the borough denied them due process by failing to afford them the “opportunity to obtain a ‘buyout,’” even going so far to accuse the borough of selectively notifying certain residents and providing false information to others.
The suit says the Hazzouris’ homes, located on Susquehanna and Philadelphia avenues, sustained nearly $400,000 in damage during the historic flood in September 2011.
They write in their suit that they did not attempt to apply for the county buyout program until January 2018, simply because they were not aware of it.
The Hazzouris allegedly contacted the county’s Office of Community Development in August 2017 upon learning of the program, to be met with shocked questions of “Where have you been the last six years?” The family was told the project was nearing its final stages.
They claim representatives from the county allegedly told them “it seems like municipalities are trying to keep the project ‘hush-hush’ because of the effect buyouts would have on their communities.”
The family says they learned in March the borough would not agree to buy out the home.
Upon subsequent investigation, including the filing of a Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, request, the Hazzouris learned that West Pittston advertised the program on only one day in November 2012 in a local newspaper, which they say runs counter to the rules which required communication to residents, including direct contact to them from the borough.
The Hazzouris are accusing the borough of several counts of denial of due process along with the denial of equal protection of the law. They’re seeking all punitive damages the court is willing to provide.
Reach Patrick Kernan at 570-991-6386 or on Twitter @PatKernan