A Northeast Philadelphia man has sued the city, alleging that employees of an anti-blight program and a city lawyer harassed him over the upkeep of his home.
Steven P. Tengood, 62, of the 7200 block of Saul Street in the Castor Gardens section, filed a civil rights complaint in federal court last week, alleging that inspectors trespassed at his home and that a cleanup crew illegally took personal property from his backyard.
The employees are part of the city's Community Life Improvement Programs, which was rocked by a 2009 grand jury investigation that led to the arrests and convictions of workers who stole from homes they were supposed to help clean.
Two inspectors, Martin Higgins and Roseanne Elia, who are named as defendants in Tengood's suit, were not among the workers charged in the criminal case.
Their supervisor, Rycharde Sicinski, also a defendant, was sentenced to prison in September. However, the suit does not say Sicinski had any interaction with Tengood.
Also named as defendants are Thomas M. Conway, a deputy managing director for the city who oversees the anti-blight program, and Beverly L. Penn, who was involved as a city lawyer in Tengood's case.
Penn allegedly called Tengood a "hoarder" and fought in court to give inspectors access to the inside of his house.
City Solicitor Shelley R. Smith did not respond to requests for comment.
Tengood alleges that Higgins initially came to his home in 2008 on two occasions. During one visit, the lawsuit says, Higgins allegedly stuck his hand through the front-door mail slot to take photographs of the inside of Tengood's home. Higgins also allegedly broke into Tengood's garage to take pictures.
Tengood received a violation notice in the mail directing him to cut overgrown plants, repair the back garage door, and remove trash from the back of his property.
What followed was a battle between Tengood and city officials before an appeals board and in Common Pleas Court over whether inspectors could go into his house.
Tengood said the legal fighting cost him more than $25,000.
When the criminal case emerged, the city pulled back from trying to gain access to his house, according to the suit.
The city cited Tengood again this year, and in June a cleanup crew went to his house and took an article of clothing, recyclable material, and unopened boxes of nonperishable food he stored outside, according to the suit.
Tengood seeks more than $925,000 in damages from the city.