Councilman aims to protect community organizations from intimidation through lawsuits

Councilman Bobby Henon introduced a bill that would provide insurance to the groups.

Pat Loeb
May 17, 2018 - 8:53 pm

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) -- A Philadelphia city councilman wants to help protect community organizations that get targeted for frivolous lawsuits if they oppose a developer. He introduced a bill that would provide insurance to the groups.

Councilman Bobby Henon says his bill is a response to testimony from several Registered Community Organizations or RCO's, at a hearing in February, who had been hit with what are called SLAPP suits: Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation. One was driven out of existence; others were nearly bankrupted.

"I think it's our responsibility to keep them in business and not out of business," Henon said.

Henon says council can't stop the suits, but he hopes it will adopt his measure to insure RCO's for legal costs. City law requires RCO involvement in the development process. He says, for that to be meaningful, they can't fear a developer will sue them if they oppose a project.

"It would be in the best interest of the city to recognize that they are a public participant," the councilman said, "and that we really try to help defray the costs involved in frivolous lawsuits."