Hempfield officials find $125,000 union settlement agreement not done in public eye | TribLIVE.com
Westmoreland

Hempfield officials find $125,000 union settlement agreement not done in public eye

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A $125,000 settlement agreement made between Hempfield officials and a union in 2017 was not done in the public eye, a township review found.

The agreement was put under review in January when Supervisor Rob Ritson called for a state audit. The deal was executed without a corresponding vote or public meeting, township Solicitor Scott Avolio said this week.

Teamsters Local 30 filed a grievance in 2017 after township workers completed pipe work that the union claimed was theirs, Supervisor George Reese said. The township’s labor council negotiated a settlement with the union and passed it along to the township manager at the time, who failed to list the settlement as an agenda item for the board to vote on.

While the settlement would not have been discussed during the public meeting, supervisors are required to vote publicly on legal matters.

Avolio contemplated the misstep could have simply been an oversight but could not give a reason for why the agreement did not go up for a public vote.

The settlement was made legal Monday after supervisors voted to ratify the execution of the agreement.

Last month, Ritson called for a state audit of the township, citing four instances between 2016-18 where the board allegedly took action on items without the public’s knowledge — the union settlement agreement, a $4.3 million firefighter grant, an agreement with a design company for a monthly newsletter and a volunteer firefighter fund.

The vote for an audit failed in a 3-2 vote, with supervisors Doug Weimer, Tom Logan and John Silvis overruling Ritson and Reese.

The Pennsylvania Auditor General’s Office can only audit a township’s pension funds and use of the state gas tax, spokesman Gary Miller said. Hempfield officials would have to invite the office to look into other matters, he said.

Despite the failure of the audit vote, township Manager Jason Winters directed Avolio to review the items. Winters is checking past contracts, agreements and grants for mistakes. He previously reviewed bids made by officials, but said everything was done correctly.

Reese said he’s going to urge the board to reconsider having a professional audit done during next month’s workshop.

“I want to make sure that we dot all the I’s and cross all the T’s. I can assure you this, moving forward we are. We are,” Reese said. “I have no problem with going back and looking at some of these issues that have been in question.”

GRANT

The firefighter grant, or the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant, was ratified after an article announcing the money was granted to the township brought the mistake to the attention of township officials.

Ritson claimed a public vote never took place for the acceptance of the grant.

NEWSLETTER

Once the contract with Apollo Design for a community newsletter expires, officials will review the terms, Winters said.

The annual agreement is set to renew automatically if the township does not notify the company of termination, but a renewal contract is sent out each year.

FUND

The agreement with The Community Foundation for a volunteer firefighter fund acknowledges the township as a beneficiary of a third-party charitable donation, Avolio said.

This means the fund was set up independently from the township, making any contracts between the donor and the Community Foundation.

Megan Tomasic is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Megan at 724-850-1203, [email protected] or via Twitter .

Categories: Local | Westmoreland
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