Forward Twp. supervisor sues Web site users


  By ERIC SLAGLE Daily News Staff Writer


  A Forward Township supervisor whose character has been attacked in anonymous posts on a local online discussion board has filed a lawsuit over the matter.
  Township Board of Supervisors Chairman Tom DeRosa has filed a complaint in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court against some of the anonymous site users, identified in the suit as Howard and Robin Doe.
  “They’re spreading a lot of lies about me on the Web site,” DeRosa said of his reasons for bringing the action. “I’m going to find out who they are.” Richard S. Rattanni, who runs RSR Tech Web Hosting in Elizabeth, has been subpoenaed in the case. He is being ordered to produce information that would identify persons who put up the postings. Rattanni

 


has indicated that he’s contacted the American Civil Liberties Union Greater Pittsburgh Chapter in response to the demand.
  RSR Tech operates www. elizabethboro.com , a Web site that features an online forum, Elizabeth Area Discussion Board, where users may post opinions about community issues anonymously.
  Some of the anonymous postings against DeRosa accuse him, among other things, of hiring family members to perform work on a recently completed $19,968.87 bridge repair project and call him a liar.
  The link accusing DeRosa of corrupt business practices began Oct. 19 and continued through Nov. 27.
  On Friday, Rattanni posted an image of a Nov. 20 subpoena he received from DeRosa’s attorney ordering him to produce documents that would identify users who made inflammatory posts about DeRosa between Oct. 24 and Oct. 30. The document orders Rattanni to bring the information to the office of the filing attorney, Joseph G. Heminger, of the law firm Brucker Schneider and Porter.
  In his posting, Rattanni warns users that he has “been ordered by the courts to notify you that Tom
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 DeRosa is seeking the IP addresses to help him determine who made the following posts as described by the court order. If you are one of the posters or know one of the posters, they should call me (do not give me your name), simply identify yourself as the username you posted.” Rattanni also says in his message that people who are uncomfortable contacting him about the matter may contact the ACLU to have the subpoena quashed.
  “If you do not respond in a timely manner,” he adds, “your First Amendment rights may be forfeit.” Neither Rattanni nor the ACLU could be reached for comment on the matter.
  DeRosa said Friday of the suit, “When they start spouting lies and saying stuff that’s not true ... the truth’s got to come out.
  “You can’t call me a liar and a thief unless you can prove it,” added DeRosa, who contends claims that he paid anyone in his family to work on the bridge are false.
  DeRosa said his brother helped tear down part of the bridge and haul away material but did not receive pay for his service.
  The firm Earth Concepts and its owner Paul Ucman, who is the


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ex-husband and current boyfriend of DeRosa’s niece, received a total payment of $3,400 for doing concrete work on the bridge.
  DeRosa noted that he is not particularly close to Ucman but said that Ucman’s company delivered the township a bargain, putting in about 90 hours on the project.
  Ucman was sentenced in October to at least one year in jail for stealing at least $5 million in jewelry from his ex-wife Debbie Hardy, who also was married to billionaire businessman Joe Hardy. Debbie Hardy is not related to DeRosa.
  DeRosa testified at Ucman’s sentencing hearing that Ucman did vital work helping to repair the bridge.
  DeRosa said that he himself worked almost 200 hours on the project for which he did not receive compensation.
  The bridge, which connects Ripple Road with Pangburn Hollow Road, was closed for 17 days while the work was being completed.
  Much of the work was done by township road employees. DeRosa said the township saved a lot of money making the repairs itself; an engineer had told the township the project would cost around $240,000.
  Brucker Schneider and Porter is the law firm that serves as Forward Township ’s solicitor. DeRosa said he is paying the legal costs out of his own pocket and that township funds are not being used.

 
 
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