Fayette meeting called off; commissioners unsure whether it had been advertised properly
As they have done every month for countless years, Vanderbilt residents Ralph and Geraldine Mazza arrived early on Thursday for a Fayette County commissioners meeting.
But minutes before the scheduled 10 a.m. start, Commissioner Vincent Zapotosky advised them and a handful of others to leave because questions had arisen over whether the meeting had been advertised, a legal requirement to alert residents about when elected officials will be making decisions affecting their lives.
“Zapotosky was in and out of the room, on the phone,” Geraldine Mazza said. “Right before 10, he made the announcement the meeting was canceled. He said there was a gray area, that they passed a resolution in January, but it was not advertised.”
Questions have arisen about whether the public was properly informed about the commissioners' other meetings held this year.
Mazza said she knew the county could not move the meeting from its regularly scheduled day of May 20 without running a legal ad. She never saw an ad, she said, but found out the meeting had been moved to Thursday by calling the courthouse in Uniontown in advance.
“I said, ‘You guys pass resolutions at every meeting, and you don't remember them from month to month?' ” Mazza said. “How could you possibly expect anybody who was at the January meeting to remember that you passed that resolution?”
Commissioners have met at 10 a.m. on the third Tuesday of the month for voting meetings since 2012. They passed a resolution in January changing the May 20 meeting to May 15 because of the primary election and the Nov. 11 meeting to Nov. 12 because of Veterans Day.
According to all three commissioners, the county then failed to place a legal ad announcing the new dates. Al Ambrosini, commission chairman, said the decision was made “out of an abundance of caution” on Tuesday morning to cancel the meeting.
“We just made a decision this morning to postpone the meeting until next week,” Ambrosini said. “Solicitor (John) Cupp was concerned we may have not sufficiently advertised for the change in the meeting, so he just recommended to us that it would probably be easier to just reschedule it and make sure we advertise it sufficiently, instead of just having a possible question there.”
The meeting will be held at 10:30 a.m. on May 22 in Courtroom 1 at the courthouse on East Main Street, Ambrosini said. He said it will be properly advertised.
Ambrosini said questions have arisen about whether the county advertised any of this year's commissioners' meetings.
“We're having John (Cupp) look into that,” Ambrosini said. “We didn't change any of the meeting dates, except for the two, from when this administration came into office in 2012, but I'm not sure they were advertised beyond that, for 2013 and 2014.”
Melissa Melewsky, an attorney for the Pennsylvania News Media Association, said the state Sunshine Act requires government agencies to advertise their meeting dates in a newspaper of general circulation at the beginning of the year.
Meetings held outside of the regular schedule must be advertised at least 24 hours in advance, she said.
“Any meetings not properly advertised are subject to legal challenge, and a judge could invalidate any official action taken at a meeting held in violation of the law, although this is very rare and highly unlikely,” Melewsky said.
Liz Zemba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-601-2166 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Breakneck Church to hold flea market, bake sale
- Fayette jail foes want county to be stricken as intervenor in case
- Man held for trial in dragging of Redstone cop
- Old water treatment plant in Dunbar Township destroyed by fire
- Sirochman: Fayette genealogy workshop planned for Wednesday
- Contest seeks Fayette student entries to name road to jail
- Security tightened at Fayette courthouse; Westmoreland says its procedures are sufficient
- Motorcyclist listed as fair after Fayette County crash
- Connellsville theater group ready to ‘Make a Deal’
- Oglethorpe: A week in the life of a smalltown boy
- Dunbar Twp. man held for trial in DUI fatality