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Elizabeth Twp. business manager fired

| Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2013, 1:16 a.m.
Angelia Christina of McKeesport Housing Corp. talks with resident Frank Miklos, who will receive bathroom upgrades in his Summit Street rental unit through the Accessibility Modification Program. Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News

Elizabeth Township commissioners fired the township's business manager at their regular meeting on Monday.

Aaron Sukenik had been in the position since July, when he was hired to replace former township secretary Malisa Migliori, who resigned from her job one year ago after commissioners changed the township's administrative structure.

Sukenik, who was not at the meeting, previously served as business district manager at South Side Local Development Co.

As to a reason for Sukenik's termination, board of commissioners President Gene Francesconi said, “That's a personnel issue.”

Francesconi was very short with township resident Emil Burak when he questioned the firing during the meeting.

“You're the same people that hired him,” said Burak, who noted the termination had not been included on the meeting agenda. “Now all of a sudden he's no good?”

Francesconi told Burak he was interrupting the meeting and threatened to have township police Chief Robert McNeilly remove him from council chambers.

McNeilly said, outside the meeting, he was surprised by Sukenik's dismissal.

“Aaron was a good man. I don't understand this. It was a shock,” the chief said.

McNeilly described Sukenik as “very straightforward, honest, hardworking and intelligent,” and added he believed he was fired because of his refusal to meddle in police department affairs.

“They wanted him to coerce me into making changes in the department that weren't in the best interest of the department,” McNeilly said. “He was doing what he thought was right and I believe it cost him his position here.”

McNeilly pointed to his efforts to send two of his police officers to the Southern Police Institute in Louisville, Ky., for additional training in investigative techniques as one of the issues on which commissioners had pressured Sukenik.

The training for the officers, incidentally, was approved at the meeting in a unanimous vote.

“Aaron was being told they better not go,” said McNeilly, who also said he was stunned by Francesconi's threat to have Burak thrown out of the meeting.

The township hired McNeilly as police chief in 2006. He replaced Francesconi, who was acting chief. Francesconi resigned from the force after McNeilly was hired.

The 4-3 vote to terminate Sukenik was the first order of business at the meeting and came after an executive session. Francesconi, vice president Larry Vota, Claire Bryce and Chris Evans supported the measure. Commissioners Robert Thomas, Joanne Beckowitz and Donald Similo voted against it.

Thomas said he voted no because “I wasn't sure that the action was appropriate and I was advised to vote no” by a lawyer.

Commissioners voted to run an advertisement for three weeks for a new business manager.

Until a replacement is hired, township solicitor Pat McGrail said, “We have staff that is going to cover those responsibilities.”

Eric Slagle is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1966, or eslagle@tribweb.com.

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