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Baldwin Council members careful about filling vacant seat

| Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Baldwin-Whitehall School Board's recent actions to hire one of its own to a top-paid administrative position without prior public notice, has one councilman in a contributing town asking leaders to be extra careful when they appoint someone to an open two-year seat on borough council.

“I think we'd be foolish not to advertise it in some fashion. You don't want to give any impression that anything is being done under the cover. You want everything above board, just based upon what's gone on,” Baldwin Borough Councilman Francis Scott told his colleagues Tuesday, as they weighed options for how to fill a vacancy created when councilman David Depretis resigned on Jan. 6.

Depretis, a Democrat, who won a four-year term as Baldwin's mayor in the November election, was sworn in that night to his new position.

Baldwin Council members have 30 days from Depretis' resignation, or until Feb. 5, according to borough code, to fill the vacancy. Then, the decision would be sent to the borough's vacancy board, which would have 15 days to appoint someone.

Council members Tuesday decided to post the open council seat on the borough's website and accept resumes until Monday at 4:30 p.m.

Council members plan to meet Tuesday night prior to their 7:30 meeting to review resumes, council President Michael Stelmasczyk said. The intent is to swear in the new councilman that night, he said.

Borough officials have several options for appointing a new councilman and are not restricted by borough code, borough Manager John Barrett said.

They discussed appointing a person without advertisement, placing the information on the borough website and reviewing resumes, as councilman Kevin Fischer suggested, or by placing an ad in a local newspaper and conducting interviews, as suggested by Scott.

“We serve the public well by soliciting some sort of resume, if you will, by people who might be interested in serving the post,” Fischer said.

Fischer said he can garner just as much from a resume as an interview. Scott said he would prefer to interview candidates.

The borough already received three letters of interest for the open seat prior to Tuesday's meeting.

“I don't think there's anything wrong with us making an appointment tonight,” Stelmasczyk said, noting that if council members don't come to a consensus in time they could lose the right to make the selection.

Asking people to submit their resumes, though, could help to secure people for other open board and committee vacancies, if they are not selected for the council seat, council members said.

“I think it does a good job for us to see who is interested,” Fischer said.

With the school board's Nov. 19 action to hire Martin Michael Schmotzer, who resigned from the board moment prior, as a top paid administration, without public advertisement, that makes Baldwin Borough's actions all the more important, Scott said. Schmotzer resigned from the job two weeks later and was sworn in to a new term on the school board on Dec. 4.

“It might be a different issue, but it's not to the public,” Scott said. “Now we can say we went the extra steps. You don't have to do it, but it certainly makes a lot of sense.”

Borough council, though, is being open with the public about the vacancy, said Fischer, who resigned from the Baldwin-Whitehall School Board one week prior to Schmotzer's hiring to the administrative job.

“None of us are living under a rock here, so we obviously know what the general feeling is as to what happened in the school district. But this certainly is a different situation,” Fischer said. “This was known. We will be taking action to receive resumes, we'll be advertising it. What the school district did was the completely the opposite of that. There's nothing that we are doing or saying that would be wrong, illegal or unethical.”

St ephanie Hacke is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5818 or

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