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Cheswick councilman resigns after missing 16 months of meetings

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Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014, 12:36 a.m.
 

Cheswick Council will meet on Wednesday to consider Councilman Neal Hohman's resignation after 16 months of absenteeism.

In a letter submitted to the borough on Friday, Hohman wrote that he's stepping down “to allow someone else interested in serving council to be able to do so.”

He turned in his keys to the borough office and the $100 stipend he received for August.

All Cheswick Council members are paid a $100 monthly stipend for their service to the borough.

Hohman, who hasn't attended a council meeting since April 2013, continued to cash the monthly stipends during his absence.

He doesn't plan to reimburse the taxpayers, he said, for the money he collected during that time frame.

“I'm entitled to it,” said Hohman, 52. “If you win an election, you're entitled to that money. I work seven days a week, and I'm raising two kids on my own. It's not a lot of money.”

Hohman said he stopped attending council meetings as a dispute over the potential purchase of a new firetruck came to a head.

He, along with fellow council members Jonathan Skedel and Vickie Roolf, opposed buying a new truck for the Cheswick Volunteer Fire Department in favor of a merger with a nearby fire company.

When the vote first came to council in February 2012, the three and one other council member voted against buying the truck, which at the time cost $380,000. Roolf later voted for the truck.

Skedel declined to comment on Tuesday but has said the decision created a rocky relationship between him and Joe Ferrero, president of the Cheswick Volunteer Fire Department. That September, Skedel was charged with simple assault and providing a false statement after he and Ferrero got into a physical altercation in Springdale.

Skedel was acquitted of the charges in April. He has since filed a federal lawsuit against Springdale and then-police Chief Joe Naviglia for filing false criminal charges, damaging his reputation and violating his First Amendment rights.

Skedel and Hohman stopped attending council meetings after Skedel's acquittal.

Hohman said Skedel's situation was unrelated to his decision to skip the council meetings.

“I make my own decisions, and I had just had enough,” Hohman said. “I probably should have retired earlier, but I was done making any kind of waves.”

Council ultimately voted in Skedel and Hohman's absence to buy a new firetruck for about $354,000. The vote took place two months after the councilmen stopped attending the meetings.

Borough Secretary Andy Bock said Skedel has also collected the stipends during his absence. Skedel has made no mention of resigning, he said.

Council President Paul Jack said Hohman's replacement should be appointed next month to serve the remainder of his term, which runs through January 2016. So far, he said, there are no candidates under consideration.

Officials will have until Sept. 26 to name Hohman's replacement if council accepts his resignation on Wednesday, Council Vice President Frank Meledandri said.

“It's unfortunate that (Hohman) is resigning,” he said. “We've been waiting for him to make a decision one way or the other. At least now we can move forward.”

Braden Ashe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4673 or bashe@tribweb.com.

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