It’s one thing to own a dilapidated property for years and do nothing to improve it.

It’s something much more devious to sell the property but then refuse to turn it over its rightful new owner, and, in fact, try to sell part of it to someone else — all in defiance of a court order.

This disturbing legal malaise is playing out in Northumberland County court between Shamokin native Leonard J. Dobson, of Middletown, and Manoucheher Malekan, the owner of the former Ames, Bi-Lo and Long John Silver’s buildings in Coal Township, and his company, Shamokin Commons LLC.

Dobson, a 96-year-old man who says he’d like to invest $1 million in the property toward establishing light manufacturing, has been tied up in a legal battle with Malekan since Dobson bought the property in an online auction in October 2016. Malekan has failed to turn over the deed, initially claiming a title defect.

More than two years after the legal battle began, Judge Charles Saylor ruled last month that Shamokin Commons must turn over the title within 45 days to Dobson. But one week later, 23 minutes after the ruling was officially filed, Shamokin Commons sold one of the three properties in question.

There has been ample opportunity for Malekan to prove his position with the court; judging by Saylor’s ruling, he has failed. Additionally, we agree that the defiance in selling a portion of the land — through a transaction that Dobson’s new lawsuit claims involved the same attorney — does indeed speak to “willful, wanton and outrageous conduct.”

We urge the court to take whatever further action it can to settle this dispute quickly, allowing Dobson to acquire ownership and move on with his plans.

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