Former Steeler Chukky Okobi says for five years he has done everything according to the law in responding to complaints filed by some of his Shadyside neighbors in court and with the Pittsburgh Zoning board. But he said the game is rigged because the main complainant is a member of a prominent legal family who is doing everything she can to ruin him because she is a racist.
“This entire thing was conjured up by Patricia Lemer,” he said. “She’s cost me over $300,000 in legal fees because she’s a liar and a racist who’s using her legal connections because she just can’t have me living on her street.”
The dispute involves a tent erected in back of Okobi’s bed and breakfast, The Mansion at Maple Heights, which he began operating in 2009. He uses the tent for weddings and other parties. Because the tent, which stretches the entire length of the mansion’s back porch and beyond, was new, Okobi was required to get a new certificate of occupancy from the zoning board. He did. In 2011, Lemer and another neighbor, Andrew Elste, whose house is in neighboring Squirrel Hill overlooking the B&B, appealed and won, with the board ruling the tent is not an addition, which is allowed in a residential zone, but that it is the primary use.
Okobi appealed to Common Pleas Court and won. Lemer and Elste appealed to Commonwealth Court, where two of three justices recently ruled in their favor. Okobi has asked for the entire court to review the finding noting the six pages of reasoning presented by the dissenting judge.
Also in 2011, a separate complaint signed by 21 neighbors was filed in Common Pleas Court claiming the property was a nuisance because the parties were numerous, loud and parking hampered their use of the street.
Okobi said, of all those 21 people only Lemer and Elste actually testified.
“When asked about it, the others said I don’t know. And when she was disposed, Patricia Lemer admitted she wasn’t even in town when the events she’s complaining about took place,” he said. “I presented evidence that she is lying, but the court didn’t look at that because she’s a Strassburger. The court is her home field. I can’t win there.
“I have complied with Judge Colville’s restrictions on the number of events and when they are to end, but doesn’t matter.”
Lemer is a cousin of attorney, E.J. Strassburger and also Pennsylvania Superior Court Eugene Strassburger.
She says the argument has nothing to do with that.
“He thinks we have some sort of vendetta against him because he’s Black,” she said. “This isn’t about him being Black or about me being a Strassburger. It’s about him breaking the law and he’s been ruled against each time.
“If I’m sitting on a Saturday night, even if all the windows and doors are closed and I take out my hearing aids—which I have in both ears—I can hear the parties,” she continued. “He’s playing the race card now because he’s lost.”
Okobi said a transcript from the 2011 appeal would prove there’s collusion, but it can’t be found.
“During that hearing, E.J. Strassburger told Judge James, ‘Come on, you know me. I’ve been to your house,’” he said.
Shawn Keefer, the manager of the Mansion, was at the hearing and confirms he heard words to that effect, but couldn’t obtain a transcript even though a court reporter was present. The only thing he said he could find after contacting the clerk of courts and 16 different transcription firms was a receipt noting a court reporter had been assigned. But it had no name on it, and the actual transcript is missing, he said.
“If I’m lying, show me the transcript,” said Okobi.
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