Derek S. Winnie, owner of Saugerties Self-Storage and Winnie Auto Sales in Saugerties, N.Y., has filed a lawsuit against George Heidcamp, a powerful neighbor Winnie claims has harassed him through a series of complaints that have resulted in lost business and time, and financial hardship. The suit was filed last month in state Supreme Court in Ulster County, according to the source.
Heidcamp, a neighbor of Winnie Auto Sales and a former Saugerties police officer, is president of the Saugerties Board of Education and chairman of the town Conservative Party.
In the lawsuit, Winnie alleges that Heidcamp began harassing him in July 2011, acting under the pretense of a concerned citizen. The legal complaint indicates that Heidcamp "has maintained a course of conduct and actions that constitute an intentional and unreasonable invasion of the use and enjoyment of plaintiff’s property under the guise of reporting alleged zoning violations with malice aforethought.”
The suit states that Heidcamp filed approximately 120 combined complaints, e-mails and phone calls against Winnie with the town police, building department, supervisor, town board, town attorney and town clerk. Winnie said Heidcamp provided numerous photographs and videos of him, his children and employees in an attempt to "demand, threaten, bully and shame said officials into prosecuting plaintiff(s).”
Heidcamp told the source that anything he filed with authorities was because he believed Winnie to be in violation of the law.
Winnie said he was forced to defend himself against a criminal reckless-endangerment charge, as well as alleged zoning-violation charges. He said he was acquitted by a jury of all charges, but the legal action resulted in a loss of time, business opportunity and money paid for attorney’s fees.
The lawsuit seeks a restraining order, $200,000 in damages and $5,000 in attorney’s fees. Winnie is being represented by attorney Anthony Polizzi of Saugerties. Heidcamp is being represented by Mark Metzger of Poughkeepsie, N.Y. Metzger told the source he believes the lawsuit will be dismissed.
Among the complaints filed by Heidcamp included one to the town building inspector, Alvah Weeks, alleging that Winnie had committed zoning-law violations. As part of the site-plan approval for Winnie's self-storage business, a portion of the property was set aside as open space, according to Weeks. But Winnie Auto Sales began parking vehicles in the space, violating the zoning law.
Weeks said he asked Winnie to correct the issue, and when he did not, he filed charged against Winnie in Olive Town Court. The jury found Winnie not guilty of violating the zoning law; however, a Supreme Court judge ordered that the vehicles be moved from the open space.