Owner of Cherry Lane Estates was sued by property managers

July 25, 2018 GMT

While Cherry Lane Estates residents deal with an at-large arsonist and a public auction of the land they live on, court documents show owners at Divinity Investments were sued for allegedly failing to pay employees — and then firing them.

Somerset residents Jennifer and Joshua Maurer filed a complaint March 3, 2017, in U.S. District Court of Western Pennsylvania against Chambersburg-based Divinity Investments and owner Thomas Mongold for alleged violations of workers’ compensation laws. In the original complaint, the Maurers were seeking compensation for unpaid wages and overtime.

According to court documents, around December 2016 the Maurers noticed they were not being paid for their work as property managers. The couple tried to contact Mongold and his business partner, Robert Hickey, but were told they were unavailable or in a meeting. The Maurers started working for Divinity Investments in March 2014.

On Feb. 3, 2017, Mongold called them about septic pumps and filing eviction notices for tenants. Joshua Maurer then asked him about the unpaid wages.

“Mr. Mongold also discussed if Ms. Maurer had been to the Magistrate’s office to file a lawsuit,” the complaint reads. “At the end of the conversation, Mr. Mongold informed Mr. Maurer that since Ms. Maurer was trying to file a lawsuit for unpaid wages, she was fired. Mr. Maurer once again inquired about the unpaid wages and Mr. Mongold stated he was fired as well for complaining about the unpaid wages.”

The Maurers settled with Divinity Investments for $53,000 onAug. 17 with Divinity Investments officials stating in the agreement that the company did not concede doing anything wrong. The agreement also required the Maurers to vacate their home at 159 Donald Lane within 90 days of signing the agreement.

The Daily American tried to reach Divinity Investments and the Maurers’ attorney, Christi Wallace, of Pittsburgh, for comment but did not receive a response by deadline Tuesday. The agreement paperwork says there is a confidentiality clause with monetary penalties for violations.

Cherry Lane Estates in Somerset has been the site of 11 arsons since early May. A 12th fire in a trailer was unsuccessfully lit. Police said they have a list of “people of interest” that they are working through.

An online auction for the property is underway for 104 lots with trailers, 30 of which are occupied. The auction ends at noon Wednesday.

The limited liability company still owes delinquent taxes totaling $67,000 on trailers and land in the park, according to Somerset County officials.

“If taxes are not paid by Sept. 25, it will still be up for tax sale,” said Jane Rizzo, county chief assessor and tax claim bureau chief.

In a call on June 27, Mongold said all the homes are owned by residents who occupy them. Mongold added that county and local officials are responsible for cleaning up debris from the trailer fires.

“They went to tax sale last year, and Somerset takes possession of those homes,” he said.

Park manager Cindy Duerring said Tuesday that she was unaware of the Maurers’ court case with Divinity Investments, but people in the court are wondering what will happen next. Duerring said a few local people have shown interest in purchasing the park.

“Just keep your fingers crossed that somebody is interested in keeping it a park, fixing up what needs to be fixed and making it like it used to be, a nice park in town,” she said.

Regarding the fires, she said that residents are remaining vigilant, and many hope for good news soon.

“I keep hoping every day that we’ll get the call and say, ‘Yeah, we got the evidence’ and ‘We got him,’” she said.