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Belle Vernon councilman still on job

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014, 1:36 a.m.
 

After being absent for the past two monthly meetings and offering his resignation, Belle Vernon Councilman Joe Minniti chaired the panel's Monday meeting.

Although he apparently has decided to stick around, there is no recording of the special meeting in which council acted on Minniti's decision not to resign.

In the June 24 edition of The Valley Independent, borough council advertised its intention to hold a special business meeting the following night, “to resolve personnel issues.” The advertisement appears to have met the slimmest margin of notice as defined in the Pennsylvania Sunshine Law.

Under Section 709 of the Sunshine Law, “An agency shall give public notice of each special meeting or each rescheduled regular or special meeting at least 24 hours in advance of the time of the convening of the meeting specified in the notice.”

The first official act of council Monday was to approve minutes of meetings held since the last regular monthly meeting. Council approved minutes of the June 9 meeting, but took no action on the June 25 special session. No mention was made during the Monday business meeting of the June 25 session.

Asked after Monday's meeting why minutes from the session had not been approved, council indicated that meeting was an executive session – in contrast to its advertised purpose. Official action cannot be taken during an executive session.

Prior to the May meeting, Minniti submitted a letter of resignation.

In the letter, Minniti said, “As council is aware, over the past year my career path has changed as well as my health issues. Since these changes have consumed all my time and energy, I feel I can no longer commit my time that the residents deserve.”

Council declined to act on the letter at that session or the June 9 meeting.

Asked Monday about Minniti's status, council members said his resignation letter had been rescinded.

Asked when that occurred, they indicated it occurred during the June 25 special session.

Councilman Jesse Cramer said it occurred before the executive session. Solicitor Mark Galper then noted there should have been minutes from the open portion of that session. Asked for a copy of those minutes, Galper said they would be made available to The Valley Independent “next month.”

Accountability

Prior to the May meeting, Minniti told The Valley Independent he decided to resign after learning the newspaper had requested records indicating he voted to pay bills for purchases the borough made from his business.

The information was requested after viewing a copy of the bills council approved for payment at its April 14 meeting. The bills included $229.19 to Minniti Motor Sports in Rostraver Township.

Those requested records indicated $800 in payments to Minniti Motor Sports over an eight-month period.

The purchases were made by the borough street department for parts needed for borough vehicles.

In a 3-0 vote in April, Minniti voted to pay the bills – including the one for his business. In May, council claimed Minniti never cast a vote on those bills.

Galper said council members should publicly abstain from voting in cases of potential conflicts of interest and publicly state potential conflicts.

Borough minutes indicate that voice votes – not roll call votes – were taken so it was difficult to tell how many council members voted.

Last month, Galper advised council to take roll call votes on motions involving the expenditure of money.

That did not occur until late in the session Monday when Cramer presented the board with forms he designed to record each member's tally on votes involving expenditures. Council re-voted on annual dues to the Mid Mon Valley Transit Authority.

During the vote, borough administrator Ruth Dodds asked Mayor Gerald Jackson for his vote. Jackson reminded her that the mayor does not vote, except to break ties.

Each motion to pay the bills at the end of the meeting was done by roll call.

But Councilwoman Carolyn Cherocci, who made each motion, did not vote on any of the bills. When Minniti abstained on one set of bills involving payment to his business, that left just two of the four council members recording yes votes.

Bicentennial

Council agreed to ask members of the Bicentennial Committee to attend the August council meeting to discuss outstanding bills from the August 2013 event.

Under the plan, the committee would meet with council at 6:30 p.m., a half hour before the public session.

Cherocci said the borough wants to close the books on the bicentennial event.

The committee comprises Jackson, Minniti, Councilman Lewis Stiltner, former council member Mary Beth Secleter, who resigned last month, and community representatives Debbie Walters, Kimberly Ringstad Gray and Sherry Shondelmyer.

Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or cbuckley@tribweb.com.

 

 
 


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