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Ligonier council member gets borough job

| Monday, May 14, 2012, 10:33 a.m.

Ligonier Borough Councilman Jack Berger plans to give up his seat Aug. 12 and start the next day as the borough's new office manager and secretary-treasurer.

Berger, 54, who has served on council for 21 months, was hired Monday by his fellow council members from among four finalists for the post.

'I was surprised when they told me this morning,' Berger said Tuesday. 'I knew I was in the final four. Now I'm just anxious to get started. I'm proud to be a lifelong resident of Ligonier Valley and I'm glad I'll be working in town. My door will always be open, and I will try to help everyone out.'

Berger, along with Councilwoman Judy Hoffer, was not present at the special council meeting Monday when he was hired.

Council President Jim Carns said that in addition to Berger, council hired another of the finalists, Waterford resident Jessica Boyd, as assistant to the office manager and secretary-treasurer.

Carns said the two would make a complementary team in the borough office.

'They're both from different backgrounds,' Carns said. 'She has an accounting background and Jack's background is in banking.'

Carns said that Donnell-Boland Associates, the Pittsburgh consulting firm that recommended that council create the office manager position, was involved throughout the hiring process. Donnell-Boland helped the council personnel committee screen between 27 and 29 applications submitted for both jobs and were involved with both the initial interviews and the interviews of the four finalists, Carns said.

Donnell-Boland recommended that the office manager position be created in order to administrate the borough office and the town hall maintenance staff, coordinate the office budget and coordinate with audits and other reviews by outside agencies.

Carns said that Berger and Boyd would be filling the vacancies created after borough treasurer and acting secretary Mary Giesey resigned in June and borough secretary Kimberly Pechart was fired in February.

Berger is to earn $29,000 annually and Boyd's annual salary is $26,000. Both their positions are full time, with medical insurance benefits.

Berger is expected to announce his resignation from council at the Aug. 9 council meeting, after which council would ask borough residents to submit applications to fill his seat, Carns said.

Councilwoman Peggy Shepler, who cast the single vote opposing Berger's hiring, said her vote was nothing personal with respect to Berger.

'I felt there were more qualified candidates,' Shepler said. 'I felt it wasn't in the best interests of the borough.'

When asked how people would react to borough council hiring one of its own members, Berger said that Ligonier residents, if they believed the person was qualified, would probably appreciate a borough job going to a fellow resident.

'No matter what you do, someone is going to have something to say about it,' Berger said. 'I ask to let my work ethic prove (any doubts) different.'

Berger said he believes he'll bring to the job his working familiarity with council and town hall procedures, plus his knowledge of the community and its people. With more than 25 years of experience in sales and bank management, Berger is currently working part time as a data collector with Kimball & Associates of Ebensburg. The firm is confirming locations, addresses and phone numbers of Westmoreland County homes to be used in a computer database that will make dispatching from the 911 dispatch center more efficient. Berger said he would be quitting that job.

Vince Dopko, chief counsel with the State Ethics Commission, said that it is not a violation of the 1978 Public Officials and Employees Ethics Act for a council to hire a fellow council member as long as the hired council member does not participate in the vote.

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