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Fayette officials reappoint dead man

| Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2015, 11:24 p.m.

The recent reappointment of a deceased member to a long-inactive authority board led Fayette County commissioners Wednesday to consider how notifications are handled when appointing or retaining representatives of county boards.

“We will be smarter next time,” Chairman Vincent Zapotosky said.

Earlier this month, the late Larry Markwood, who died Aug. 30, 2012, was included among reappointments to the Fayette County Industrial Authority board.

Dunbar Township resident Terry Kriss asked the commissioners whether any protocol was in place to keep the board informed of appointee resignations or deaths.

He suggested personal interviews might have prevented the issue but wondered why the commissioners were not informed of Markwood's death.

“If the gentleman passed away two years ago, why didn't any of the board members pick up a phone or email you or (otherwise) let you know one of the board members is deceased and you need to reappoint or fill that position?” he said.

Kriss questioned the board's apparent lack of meetings in the past four years.

Commissioner Al Ambrosini said he favored interviewing all candidates, current or new applicants, to eliminate such “unfortunate” incidents.

“You would think, after a while, with a decedent, we would have gotten some information,” Zapotosky said.

Commissioner Angela Zimmerlink said that during the last few years, commissioners scheduled appointments with members of county-appointed boards.

Often in recent years with the current board, only one or two commissioners attended, she said.

In some cases, appointments have been rescinded, she said, because after motions were made it was discovered that the person did not want the position.

“The problem has only occurred in the last few years. That's no excuse. All three commissioners are responsible for the final product,” she said.

Typically, Zimmerlink said, letters will come from executive directors or board members who wish to be reappointed or who do not want their terms to be renewed.

“This time it didn't happen. Again, all of us could have picked up the phone. ... Their not meeting since 2010 should not be news to the three of us,” she said.

Authority solicitor Ernest DeHaas on Wednesday explained that the authority was very active in the 1970s and 1980s, assisting small businesses with obtaining low-interest bank loans.

“The authority is a conduit. The note the authority would sign to get the loan was treated as a municipal bond,” he said.

“We met on an ad hoc basis and worked on at least 40 projects over that time,” DeHaas said.

In the mid-1980s, he said, Congress amended the tax code, making the bank loans less advantageous to small businesses.

The authority seldom met, he said.

“We really didn't have much to do,” DeHaas said.

For years, he said, the authority “had a really stable board.”

“I was not aware of (Markwood's) death. I just saw the list of most recent appointments,” he said.

Had meetings been held on a regular basis, he said, the commissioners would have been made aware of the board's loss of a member.

DeHaas said another recent change in the tax code permitting low-interest municipal loans could revitalize the board's work.

“I think we can reactivate the authority,” he said.

Board member Frank LaCava also was reappointed to the board this month.

He said Wednesday that he was interviewed the first time around but learned of his reappointment after the fact.

LaCava said he never met Markwood or any of the other board members.

“In my four years on the board, we've never had a meeting,” he said.

“I want to stick it out now, because I found out what good this board can do,” he said.

LaCava said the board has to be proactive and seek out projects.

Markwood's reappointment, he said, shows a “disconnect between the boards and the commissioners.”

“The commissioners can't do everything. They appoint these boards in good faith,” he said.

“I feel very enthusiastic about serving on the board. I didn't do this to be a placeholder. If anything good is to come of this, the commissioners should have a reporting policy. The boards should report in a timely manner about deaths, criminal convictions, etc., so people are not appointed willy-nilly,” LaCava said.

Wednesday, Zapotosky and Zimmerlink agreed to advertise for proposals for property use as a potential jail facility in Uniontown, with Ambrosini voting against the motion.

The board unanimously agreed to ratify payment of $2.1 million from the county's loan through First National Bank for reimbursement to the general fund for the jail-related costs paid in 2014 and related banking fees.

The expenses were for costs associated with the planning of the failed Fayette County Justice and Rehabilitation Center. The center was to serve as a new jail but work on the project ceased when Zapotosky withdrew his support.

“That (county jail) is a transitional building,” Zapotosky said on Wednesday.

Properties may be found that can be used for other jail functions, he said, freeing up space for the jail's short-term inmates.

The board also agreed to advertise for professional human resources services. The motion, which Ambrosini voted against, includes posting the position of director of human resources and advertising for professional services to negotiate labor contracts and handle legal matters.

Mary Pickels is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-5401 or mpickels@tribweb.com.

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