Ligonier Valley YMCA complains of conflict of interest in rezoning
The Ligonier Valley YMCA has filed a complaint with the State Ethics Commission alleging that former council member Kim Shaffer should not have voted on its rezoning requests because she sold the group the land at issue, creating a conflict of interest.
Attorney Mark Sorice, who represented the YMCA in the zoning matters, said Chief Executive Officer Ben Wright filed the complaint on behalf of the YMCA. Wright referred all questions to Sorice.
Shaffer did not return telephone messages left Monday and Tuesday seeking comment. She could not be reached at her office or home on Tuesday afternoon.
According to the State Ethics Commission website, violations regarding voting conflicts can result in misdemeanor charges and fines of up to $1,000 and/or imprisonment up to one year. “Any person who obtains financial gain from violating any provision of the Ethics Act can be ordered to pay three times the financial gain into the state treasury or the treasury of the political subdivision,” it says.
In September, Shaffer voted against two requests from the Y for its expansion plans. The YMCA asked council to rezone two pieces of land for commercial use and sought permission to put in a parking lot at the site.
The land was owned by Shaffer's parents and, as executrix of the estate, Shaffer sold two pieces of property to the YMCA for $170,000, said Sorice and deed records filed with Westmoreland County.
Shaffer, a member of council for 30 years, resigned on Oct. 29, saying the issue was interfering with her work as a legislative aide to state Rep. Mike Reese, R-Mt. Pleasant Township.
Sorice said that during the sale, Wright and YMCA board president Doug Welty discussed a possible contingency with Shaffer, stipulating that the YMCA would only purchase the land if the rezoning was approved.
Wright and Welty said that Shaffer told them if they agreed to buy the land without that contingency, she would use her influence on council to get the YMCA's requests approved, according to Sorice.
Sorice said YMCA board members were taken aback when Shaffer did not disclose the property sales or the negotiations when the rezoning requests went before council.
Before those proceedings, Sorice said, the YMCA instructed him to write a letter to attorney Daniel Hewitt — who represented the borough in the zoning requests — about the conversations between YMCA officials and Shaffer. Shaffer had said she voted on the YMCA requests, based on a written opinion from Hewitt.
Hewitt declined to comment on Tuesday. The YMCA filed an appeal on Nov. 5. It asked Judge Anthony Marsili to overturn council on and asserted that Shaffer should have recused herself from voting.
When council met Nov. 14, they voted 3-3 on the YMCA's rezoning package. Bellas broke the tie to approve it.
Shaffer has been elected to another term on council but has declined comment on whether she will take office in January. Sorice said the YMCA plans to withdraw its zoning appeal.
Nicole Chynoweth is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-850-2862 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.
- Emaciated Lab-collie mix found in garbage bag in New Stanton
- Wanted: Youngwood Borough Council member
- Friends take to social media to recall Herminie teen
- Derry Area energy costs expected to rise
- MAX Environmental fined for ordinance violations
- Ex-kennel manager in Fayette County ordered to pay fines
- Convicted killer won’t be freed in 1973 double-murder of children
- Judge removes Zapatosky, Fayette County from civil rights suit
- Burglary, attempted assault at Rostraver bowling lanes investigated
- Westmoreland County to auction guns, vehicles
- State police trooper seriously hurt when hit by vehicle in East Huntingdon