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New Ken water official resigns

| Saturday, April 7, 2007

Ron Balla has resigned from the New Kensington water authority board, less than a week before a hearing in Westmoreland County Court in which he could have been removed from the position for alleged violent behavior.

Balla said he submitted his letter of resignation Thursday, which Municipal Authority of New Kensington board Chairman Richard Lecocq and special counsel Ira Weiss confirmed.

Balla attended an authority meeting on Tuesday and made no public mention of his intentions to resign.

In a prepared statement he read over the phone on Friday, Balla said, "My position over the years has brought much insight into the operational and financial functions of the water authority.

"Unfortunately, many of my insights show gross mismanagement of the authority, which I have tried to rectify. And it is very unfortunate that management and leadership have failed."

Balla went on to call into question the competence of at least two authority employees. He said his frustrations with management prompted him to resign.

He criticized the authority for not being able to readily provide accurate dollar amounts for delinquent accounts, which he and the Valley News Dispatch separately have requested. Balla said the authority's computer contract is being mishandled.

Balla denied the allegations that he displayed violent behavior prompting the authority board to seek his removal.

Asked if he was violent with any board members or employees, Balla said, "Never. No."

"I don't talk behind your back," he said. "I talk to your face. That's the kind of person I am."

He added, "Those were nothing but political squabbles."

Balla, who was appointed to the board by New Kensington Council in 2004, faces a hearing on Tuesday morning in front of Judge Gary Caruso.

Balla said he won't appear at the hearing.

The authority board was seeking to have Balla removed from his post for a handful of events in which, according to Weiss, Balla displayed "abusive and outrageous behavior toward water authority employees."

Weiss said authority officials still will attend next week's hearing "to request that the court declare the seat vacant."

According to the civil complaint, Balla walked into the authority office along Barnes Street on April 27, 2005, and "began speaking in a loud, abusive and profane manner."

The complaint states that Balla forced his way into General Manager Jim Matta's office, "breaking the door jam and splitting the wood frame."

Once inside Matta's office, Balla began cursing at Matta and Lecocq, who was inside, according to the complaint.

Earlier that day, according to the complaint, Balla stopped at a job site and tried to provoke a fight with Phil Toney, superintendent of distribution.

The complaint notes a third instance in which Balla allegedly confronted and threatened union worker Thomas Hogan.

In addition, the complaint accuses Balla of visiting the authority office, threatening employees and trying to gain access to records he's not legally entitled to view.

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