By Lyonel Doherty
The court is keeping a close eye on an Oliver man and his neighbours who have been embroiled in a nasty dispute for the past couple of years.
On Wednesday, Ernest Harry Krochak appeared in Penticton Provincial Court for a preliminary inquiry on charges of mischief and causing a disturbance in Morningstar Road neighbourhood. But the Crown requested an adjournment and put forth a “unique proposal” to hopefully resolve the conflict.
Prosecutor Kurt Froehlich said court proceedings would be adjourned for 10 months, and during that time if Krochak does not breach his bail (no-contact, no-harass) order, the Crown will stay the charges.
“This has been a very lengthy and hostile neighbourhood dispute,” Froehlich said.
Krochak and several of his neighbours have been involved in a gnarly feud. His neighbours have accused him of harassment and disturbing the peace by intentionally creating noise, abusing them verbally and erecting unfriendly signs.
But Krochak claims his neighbours are harassing him and creating conflict as well, including noise irritations.
Former neighbour Ted Zammit was previously convicted of assaulting Krochak during a physical altercation. But Zammit previously told the Chronicle that Krochak was harassing his elderly parents, who have since moved out of the neighbourhood due to the stress.
Patrick Hampson, one of Krochak’s neighbours, said he feels an obligation to put a stop to this anti-social behaviour, not just for himself, but more importantly for the families who also feel a need to escape the situation.
He and a group of neighbours approached the Town about the matter, but Hampson got the feeling that council treated it with a “cavalier” attitude. He noted that numerous complaints about Krochak were dismissed as not worthy of consideration.
“The rights of law-abiding citizens are routinely trumped by scofflaws in order to avoid costly disputes in court,” Hampson said, adding the Town has to stop hiding behind legal technicalities and privacy laws.
But the Chronicle has learned that the Town attempted to gather proof of the noise complaints through logs received from residents and bylaw enforcement officers. As a result, two bylaw infraction notices were issued to Krochak. In addition, the Town’s solicitor sent a letter to Krochak in 2016 demanding that he cease and desist making noise that contravened the Good Neighbour Bylaw.
Stefan Cieslik, another neighbour, said there were lots of complaints but no action taken, other than a letter from the Town stating it had done everything it intended to do and would not become more involved unless there was a health and safety issue.
The Town’s bylaw enforcement policy states that spite complaints, or complaints based on neighbourhood disputes, will not be accepted unless deemed to be an immediate threat to health and safety.
In the courtroom on Wednesday, judge Michelle Daneliuk agreed to give Krochak 10 months to prove he can keep the peace in the neighbourhood.
But his lawyer told the judge about an incident in the hallway where one of the complainants gave his client “the finger” while walking by. Therefore, he stated for the record that sometimes breaches of court orders can be induced when someone provokes you (as in this case).
The judge called the complainant into the courtroom and chastised her for her actions.
The complainant replied, “Do you want to know what he (Krochak) said to me?”
The judge said “no” and continued to admonish the woman, saying her conduct was not appreciated and could potentially induce Krochak to breach his court order to keep the peace.
Daneliuk admitted she was worried about what was going to happen in the next 10 months.
Froehlich said the intention is to bring the peace and good behaviour to the neighbourhood.
“Good luck with that,” the judge replied.