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Neighbors attend meeting to support Michael Kraus

Neighbors of Michael Krause attended the July 15 Upper Milford Township Board of Supervisors meeting to support his public address to the township.

During public comment, Krause spoke up, looking for direction from the township regarding the legal matters surrounding his property.

Upper Milford Township Solicitor Marc Fisher explained the situation began nearly three-and-a-half years ago when the township zoning officer conducted an inspection at Krause’s property, finding “a number of items that were scattered throughout the property ... [which] constituted a junkyard, as that term is defined in the township zoning ordinance.”

At a meeting in March, Fisher explained the township then filed a petition for contempt as Krause allegedly did not follow court orders to reduce the “junk” from his property within a 60-day period.

According to Fisher, Judge Melissa T. Pavlack found Krause “in contempt of her court order” and granted him additional time to remove items from his property by early February and that “if he was not in compliance, the township had the right to either remove what it considered to be junk or have a third party take away that junk and a lien could be placed on Krause’s property.”

On May 27, that right was exercised, marking the day Krause believes the township began to “officially oppress” him.

As highlighted in the packet Krause prepared for the meeting, 2010 Pennsylvania Code Title 18, section 5301, defines official oppression as “a person acting or purporting to act in an official capacity or taking advantage of such actual or purported capacity commits a misdemeanor of the second degree if, knowing that his conduct is illegal, he: (1) subjects another to arrest, detention, search, seizure, mistreatment, dispossession, assessment, lien, or other infringement of personal property rights; or (2) denies or impedes another in exercise of enjoyment of any right, privilege, power or immunity.”

According to Krause and his neighbors, he was handcuffed for several hours, seven working vehicles and personal items were removed from his property and into storage.

In his packet, Krause also highlights he sustained approximately $30,000 “in legal fees and liens” against him. The storage of the impounded vehicles from Krause’s property cost him around $12,000.

A newspaper article from December 2019, reports the township took Krause to court, which ordered him to pay $8,000 in fines. However, Fisher explained Krause could have reduced his fine twice.

“If Krause cleaned up certain items by a certain date in July of 2019, the fine would then be reduced to $4,000,” he said. “And if he removed the final set of items by September 2019, then the fine would be reduced to $1,000 and that would be the end of it.”

At this point, Krause hoped to seek some guidance or an explanation from the board regarding the legal actions taken against him.

“Neither the sheriff’s department nor Upper Milford Township will provide paperwork to me to recover the stolen vehicles,” he said. “And the fines to me continue to grow each day.”

The board asked if Krause contacted Getz’s Service Center which towed his vehicles; however, Krause said the company refuses to comment and take part in these legal matters.

Krause also outlined in his speech he feels the charges against him were “generated” by neighbors that dislike him or how he is using his property, which he believes adheres to variances he was granted. The variance permits him to use his property to “conduct an auto body shop at his residence,” according to Fisher. His neighbor Karin Reinert shares the same concerns regarding his case.

“If I turn [other neighbors] in, are they going to come back at me and do the same thing as him?” Reinert said. “We all have certain things on our property, variances ... Are they going to come after me and take away my property?”

Township solicitor Marc Fisher advised the board to remain silent on the matter.

“I would love to comment on this, but my solicitor said I can’t,” Supervisor Robert Sentner said. “If anyone knows me, it’s killing me to ... solicitor is in charge – we pay him to take care of us and our litigation – he’s telling us to stay quiet.”

After some discussion, the board of supervisors insisted any action taken against Krause has been a result of the court’s decision, not theirs.

“The long and short of it, the courts have ruled several times,” Fisher added. “It’s unfortunate that we ever got to this point, but he only has himself to blame for that.”

Neighbor Glenn Reinert feels sorry for Krause’s situation.

“This is a constant battle now in the court system and we don’t know where it’s going to end,” Reinert said. “So, all I can comment on is I really feel sorry for Mike. And I hope there’s some resolve that somebody, somewhere will listen, some legal counsel somewhere to help Mike out right now ... so he can move on with his life.”

PRESS PHOTO BY MAKENZIE CHRISTMAN Michael Krause, center, reads from his packet detailing the history of his case to the Upper Milford Township Board of Supervisors July 15, surrounded by his neighbors offering support.