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Councilwoman seems to avoid ouster in W. Kittanning

| Tuesday, March 4, 2014, 12:27 a.m.

Turns out Paula Henry's swearing-in as a West Kittanning councilwoman last month is likely to be a case of better late than never.

A week after the West Kittanning Borough Council members talked about ousting the three-term councilwoman for not taking her oath of office on time, Henry was sworn in by District Judge James Owen during the week of Valentine's Day. She has also filed all the paperwork, such as proof of residency, needed to take office, Secretary Carly Cowan said.

“Some members of council are still trying to find out if they can take some type of action against her,” Cowan said. “There's still discussion to be had at our meeting.”

Council meets Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. in the West Kittanning Fire Department, 401 Arthur St.

Henry has had a spotty record of attendance at council meetings during her recent tenure on the board. She attended two meetings last year — in March and April. She has not been to any meetings since her re-election, according to council minutes.

Cowan said she expects Henry to be at Tuesday's meeting. Henry has not returned several phone calls and could not be reached for comment.

In February, council members questioned whether Henry remained eligible to hold her seat because she missed the organizational meeting where the oath of office was taken. Henry had 10 days after the Jan. 7 organizational meeting to be sworn into office, according to the Pennsylvania Borough Code.

But since Henry took the oath, it may be pointless to keep trying to oust her, said Ed Knittel, senior director of education and sustainability at the Pennsylvania State Association of Boroughs.

Although borough code used to have an attendance requirement, a Supreme Court case in the late 1990s determined a council member cannot be ousted for missing meetings, Knittel said. The only reason a council member can be ousted, other than at the polls, is for a felony conviction, he said.

“Someone would probably have to take it up with the courts to have her removed,” Knittel said. “If she's taken the oath of office at any time, then a dispute over if she's part of the board is kind of a moot point.”

Brad Pedersen is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-543-1303, ext. 1337, or bpedersen@tribweb.com.

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