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Council president ousted at meeting

Brian C. Rittmeyer
| Thursday, Jan. 18, 2001

The leadership of Brentwood Council was shaken up Tuesday night in what the outgoing leaders called an act of political retribution.

Democrat Deborah Takach, who was voted out as president on a board with a 5-2 Democratic majority, said she was ousted after less than a year for appointing Republicans to chair committees and for supporting the borough's Republican mayor, Ronald Arnoni.

'I have tried to manage this council in a nonpartisan manner,' Takach said. 'That has been my downfall.'

But Councilman David Schade, a Democrat who introduced the motion to reorganize, said the majority of council believed Takach's leadership 'was not meeting the needs and concerns of the borough.'

Takach had replaced Schade as president in June 2000 after Schade suffered a severe wrist injury.

On two 4-3 votes, Democrats Kenneth Lockhart was elected president of the council, and Mary Dytko was elected vice president, replacing Republican Scott Werner. Takach and the council's two Republican members, Werner and Martin Vickless, voted against, while Democrats Lockhart, Dytko, Schade and Marie Landon voted in favor.

Following the vote, Arnoni called Dytko, whom he was seated next to, a 'traitor once again,' to which Dytko responded, 'That's strong, harsh words from someone who should look straight into the mirror.'

Takach initially turned the gavel over to Lockhart, saying, 'Here you go. You're on your own.' Arnoni pointed out the new officers had not been sworn in yet, at which time Takach took the gavel back and presided over the rest of the meeting.

After the meeting, Lockhart said he would not say anything negative about anyone on council and believes they can work together despite the bitterness exhibited.

'We felt there was need for a change,' Lockhart said. 'We were moving, but we were moving too slow.'

Takach said she learned of her impending ouster earlier in the day when she called Dytko with a question about the night's agenda.

'This will not get us down,' she said. 'I'm going to continue to do the best job I possibly can for Brentwood.'

Immediately following the meeting, Schade distributed a statement to the media detailing the change in leadership.

During the meeting, Schade resisted calls to further explain himself. But according to the statement, council felt Takach 'lacked vision and her performance was sub-par.

'She failed to aggressively seek state grants by contacting her state representative or senator. Such lack of initiative has cost Brentwood state tax dollars,' the statement reads.

The statement also says Takach excluded certain council members from the decision-making process by limiting membership in committees, where most local government work is accomplished.

At an impromptu news conference following the meeting, Takach said she appointed those she felt were most qualified for the jobs, regardless of party.

'I have no regrets whatsoever,' she said. 'I'm not sorry in the decisions I made. I can stand with my head held high.'

Takach and Arnoni said they believe the borough's Democratic leadership, state Rep. Ralph Kaiser specifically, ordered the change.

Arnoni had run unsuccessfully against Kaiser in November for Kaiser's 41st District seat, which he has held since 1989.

Contacted Wednesday, Kaiser denied any involvement.

'I don't understand where the mayor is coming from on this. I have no idea why he wants to draw me into this local battle,' he said. 'That was a decision of the four people who did it.'

Brian C. Rittmeyer can be reached at brittmeyer@tribweb.com or (412) 306-4540.

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