Beekeeper seeks compensation after property taken
By ANDREW MCGINN
SCRANTON — The Greene County beekeeper whose “nuisance” property was abated in late December by the city of Scranton while he was out of state had asked to speak before the Scranton city council at its Jan. 14 meeting, according to a draft lawsuit provided to The Jefferson Herald.
An attorney for Cail Calder, owner of Bee Mindful, is seeking $200,000 in compensation from the city of Scranton by March 31 or else will file suit for actual damages, punitive damages and attorney fees, according to a letter dated March 5 to the city.
Calder’s Dec. 16 request to address the council about his property at 701 Stanton St. — taken in person at City Hall by Scranton’s temporary city clerk — would seem to contradict a public statement by Mayor Cole Gustoff that the city heard nothing from Calder before taking action.
“He missed the hearing because he didn’t care,” Gustoff told the Herald in early January.
By the time of the Jan. 14 council meeting, the city of Scranton had already taken hundreds of Calder’s honey supers to the landfill and, with them, 1,900 pounds of Bee Mindful honey yet to be processed after deeming the stacked boxes a nuisance, along with brush and “miscellaneous junk.”
Calder said the city even dug up landscaping that he’d done, referring to a pollinator-friendly “living fence” of buckwheat, sunflowers and wildflowers.
“The city of Scranton, Region 12 Council of Governments, Inc., and Mayor Cole Gustoff willfully and maliciously violated my clients’ constitutional rights, and destroyed their property,” wrote attorney William M. Reasoner, of Dickinson Law in Des Moines.
Reasoner alleges that Calder’s Fifth and 14th amendment rights were violated by the city of Scranton.
The Fifth Amendment, Reason reminded the city, prohibits the government from seizing property without compensation, while the 14th prohibits the government from depriving rights without due process.
Jonathan Law, attorney for the city of Scranton, said this week he had no comment on the letter.
Gustoff didn’t return the Herald’s request for comment.
A fourth-generation Greene Countian and a regular each summer at the Greene County Farmers’ Market in Jefferson, Calder told the Herald in early January the losses he suffered were catastrophic to his honey business.
“They just shut down a business in rural Iowa,” Calder said at the time, initially thinking his property had been burglarized during his holiday travels.
Calder and wife Sheryl operate Bee Mindful out of a former Allis-Chalmers dealership behind the Scranton library. The property is zoned commercial.
Region 12 performs code enforcement under contract to Scranton and had sent three notices to Calder warning him to request a hearing or have the alleged nuisance on his property abated.
According to the suit Calder intends to file if he isn’t compensated, Calder visited City Hall after receiving the first notice, dated Sept. 7, and reportedly was told by Gustoff “not to worry.”
A final notice to request a hearing or have the nuisance abated was dated Dec. 18, two days after city records purportedly show that Calder asked to speak to the Scranton city council, according to documents obtained by Calder’s attorney through an open records request.
The Scranton city council meets once a month.
The draft suit says the city of Scranton, Region 12 and Gustoff purposefully waited until Calder was out of state before “unlawfully entering his property and destroying Calders’ business.”