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Election finishes GOP takeover of Westmoreland authority

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Friday, Jan. 11, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
 

A shakeup at the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County Thursday resulted in the appointment of a new chairman, and a new solicitor is expected to be hired next week.

Board members unanimously elected Hempfield businessman Randy Roadman as the authority's chairman. Roadman was seated on the board last January.

His election completes a Republican takeover on the authority board, which gained a majority Thursday when county commissioners appointed Ligonier Valley School Board President Bruce Robinson as the fifth member of the utility's board of directors.

“I have big shoes to fill, and I hope as a board we can work together,” Roadman said.

The chairman's job carries a $45,000 annual salary, but Roadman said he will forgo the pay. Jerome DeFabo, who served as chairman the last several years, also declined to take the salary.

Roadman's election comes at a time when the authority is in the midst of substantial change. The board last year approved a $140 million capital improvement program and instituted a 25 percent rate hike that will go into effect next month.

The board will hire a solicitor at a special meeting on Jan. 16. Roadman said Ken Burkley, the authority's lawyer since 2002, will not be retained.

“We just want to go in a different direction,” Roadman said.

Board members will interview four candidates, all lawyers with ties to the county's Republican Party committee. Those who will be interviewed are Scott Avolio, who serves as vice chairman of the GOP committee; Harry Smail, the party's solicitor; and attorneys Robert King and Brad Mellor, according to Roadman.

“This is by invitation only,” said Roadman, who noted that Burkley will officially be fired next week.

The authority will pay its solicitor $120,000 a year.

Burkley said his termination is political. He helped to spearhead the 2011 campaign of Democratic candidates for county commissioner.

Roadman and board member Keith Staso failed in an attempt to fire Burkley last year, just two months after Republicans gained control of the county's board of commissioners.

“I am studying my options. No doubt this is political retaliation,” Burkley said.

Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293 or rcholodofsky@tribweb.com.

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