Residents criticize Scottdale council over code enforcement
By Rachel R. Basinger
Published: Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Resident Steven Banasick told Scottdale council members this week that he intends to file a declaratory judgment suit with the state Attorney General's office against the borough.
Frustrated with what he claimed was selective prosecution in regards to inspection violations issued by the borough's code enforcement officer, Banasick said the suit is to ask the Attorney General's office to intercede with civil rights violations and common law violations in the borough's adopted ordinances.
Banasick is president of Quality Support, a local business currently in a legal battle with the borough. The borough's own zoning hearing board found that the business at the old armory is in compliance as a commercially zoned property, but council disagreed.
"I have separated my business issues from my personal issues and never crossed that line in regards to talking with anyone about it," Banasick said. "However, I can count on one hand the number of employees (at Quality Support) that live in this town that have not been cited, received violation notices or experienced some sort of legal issue with the borough or the Scottdale Police Department."
Banasick said he himself received a violation notice in April for his residence. He said the notice stated everything from garbage and debris to roof replacement or painting to hide the rust.
Banasick said he was told to paint his house in 30 days or face a $600 fine. The appeal process would cost $300.
"Under common laws of this country you are innocent until proven guilty," he said. "The entire weight and burden of proof lay on the prosecution and it must be proven beyond a shadow of a doubt. Never do I have to pay for my innocence."
Banasick alleged that there are current council members who have violations of their own without any kind of action taken or fines extended. He called for Mayor Chuck King to intercede and retain control of "a tainted council that has manipulated its powers to undermine the growth of this town and those who elected them to lead us.
"Will you, Mayor, investigate these actions and seek legal help in correcting my issues using the means of the state attorney general and right what is wrong?" Banasick asked.
Resident and businessman John Chain also addressed council with his own grievances.
"I have spent numerous mornings, days and evenings working around the fine lines that have been established by you to do business in Scottdale," he said. "I have been threatened, fined, warned and insulted. I have even thought that the best way to deal with things would be to board up the windows and leave them vacant."
Chain said he agreed with Banasick and that his facts were accurate.
"It is now that I take a stand — a stand to change what is wrong — a stand against what is unfair and a stand as to what this town needs to grow and flourish again — a change in leadership," he said. "A change so that the laws you have instilled are equal — the same laws that apply to every citizen and not to only a select few."
Chain said he witnessed council mislead people too many times from violations of the Sunshine Act to closed meetings behind closed doors.
"Enough is enough," he said. "At this time I call to the mayor of Scottdale to intervene."
He also asked for the resignations of Council President Tom Ermine, Councilman Andy Pinskey and Solicitor Randy Klimchock.
"I ask that Scottdale Council immediately defund BIU (the contracted code enforcement entity) and undertake a new venue for enforcing the IPMC codes, and lastly, I ask council to take a full review of the ordinance of Scottdale," Chain said.
Resident and business owner Sue Dombrowsky said Scottdale residents are losing faith in council because no one seems to do anything to help them.
"There are wonderful people in this town who want to do good things, but people are losing faith in this council and in this town," she said.
Pinskey said the whole issue of hiring a code enforcement officer was for the safety of the town. He noted the amount of money allocated in the budget was not enough to do what needed to be done, so the borough was forced to contract out for the services.
"Scottdale did not write the international maintenance code or the uniform construction code, but we were forced into enforcement by people in Harrisburg," he said, adding that a lot of the mud-slinging and negativity just had to stop.
"You're putting a bad black mark on Scottdale with all of this negative press," Pinskey said. "You have to be a good, positive community with good Christian ethics. If you don't have those core base values, you're ripping this community apart."
Councilman Angelo Pallone said he was frustrated with the fact that this was the first he was hearing any of this information.
"It's a shame that I get this for the first time tonight and that no one ever came to talk to me," he said. "I can't understand why so much homework was done against this body but no one ever called me (with their concerns). I do what I can to help people, but we can't do business if we don't know what people want."
Councilman Bryce King said he's heard a lot of complaining and accusations but he never hears how they can help.
"Tell us what it is you want us to do to help you," he said. "We'd be glad to look into it. We don't want to drive business or their customers out of town."
Councilwoman Joan Brown said they need to work together as council members and people in the town.
King said that while he isn't on any side, he agreed with Pinsky's statements.
"We have to work together, and when someone makes statements like the protection committee being tainted, I need an explanation of that," he said.
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