LINDENWOLD, N.J. (CBS) - They say a man’s home is his castle, yet Dave Patterson says his Lindenwold house and yard where he fixes up secondhand goods to sell, feels more like a prison.
“I feel like a criminal. Sometimes I feel like I am doing something wrong when I’m not doing anything wrong,” Patterson said.
Patterson, his wife Debbie and their children have lived in their home for nine years. They say since moving in they’ve been harassed by a backyard neighbor, Councilman Joseph Strippoli.
They say he constantly sends code officials and police to their door for violations they say other residents don’t get.
“Every man is not being treated equally and it’s not right,” said Patterson.
The couple is now suing councilman Strippoli and the Borough saying he forces employees to harass them for one reason.
“The belief is that it’s strictly motivated by the fact that it’s an interracial couple”, said attorney Tom Bruno, who represents the Pattersons . He is seeking punitive damages and an end to the alleged harassment.
“I don’t think he likes my color,” said Patterson
“He wanted to know why I was married to a man like this. It’s not right,” said an emotional Debbie Patterson.
Former mayor Frank DeLucca says Strippoli even threatened employees jobs if they didn’t come down on the Pattersons.
“He’s referenced Dave’s wife as being a white lady being married to that black guy,” said DeLucca.
Patterson says when he makes noise with his lawn mower or weed wacker, the police show up and say, “You know who called.”
And while others have basketball hoops without any problems, Patterson had to face a judge for two notices.
“He gave me a thousand dollar fine over a basketball court,” said Patterson
Mrs. Strippoli said off camera this is not about race. She said Mr. Patterson is running a junkyard in his backyard. Councilman Strippoli said by phone his attorney, the borough solicitor, told him not to comment. The solicitor did not return calls from Eyewitness News.