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Residents continue council reduction bid

| Friday, Aug. 17, 2001

Lincoln Borough Council will continue to have five members, but the two residents who went to court to reduce council's size say the judge should rethink his decision.

Lincoln's solicitor said the judge's ruling was based on census data and was the best for the borough.

Former Lincoln mayoral candidate Lawrence 'Tom' Hall and his friend, Robert Bentley, filed a petition in April asking that the elected five-member council be reduced to three members, documenting a history of what they call detrimental conduct by council members.

Judge James H. McLean ruled July 30 that the borough's population was too large to have only three council members and ordered that the council be left as is.

'We are trying to get a good government running the borough,' Bentley said. 'McLean didn't hear any testimony. We feel that we did not get a fair trial from him.'

The two have filed an exception to the ruling in an attempt to get McLean to reconsider their case. McLean is on vacation and could not be reached for comment.

In their original petition, Hall and Bentley claimed council enacted policies to 'thwart taxpayer access to public documents' and denied residents access to the borough building for five years without explanation and that one councilman, William Kiger Jr., used public comment time during business meetings to berate Hall.

Lincoln Solicitor Falco Muscante did not speak to the accuracy of these claims but said they are irrelevant when it comes to deciding what size a borough council should be.

'The borough code section that concentrates on council size solely concentrates on the numbers,' Muscante said. 'It has nothing to do with whether a dissatisfied resident thinks (council) is governing inefficiently.'

Muscante said the numbers show a five-member council is appropriate.

McLean decided in 1995 - also at Hall and Bentley's request - to reduce council from seven members to five, with the stipulation that if population continued to decrease, he would consider reducing it further to three members.

But Muscante said the census put the borough's 2000 population at 1,208, up by 21 from 1990. He also said the county election board figures showed voter registration in Lincoln was 805 in 2001, up by 139 from 1990.

McLean made his decision based on this evidence, Muscante said, adding that someday the borough would like to see council returned to seven members.

'The borough's position has always been to have seven because the more (members) you have to contribute their idea, the better the pool of opinion,' Muscante said. 'At the very least we should have five.'

Bentley and Hall said they will continue to pursue the matter.

'We don't need these five,' Bentley said. 'Most of the time there are two missing (from the meetings) or they have no report at the meeting anyway.'

Hall added, 'Why should we pay these people ... if they do not show up or do the work council people are supposed to do?'

Joseph J. McCallister can be reached at jmccallister@tribweb.com or at (412) 380-8536.

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