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Judge refuses to sign LB consent order

| Friday, Dec. 6, 2002

LOWER BURRELL: Council is scrambling to avoid a lawsuit after a Westmoreland County judge this week refused to sign a proposed consent order council needs to avoid liability for breaking state law.

Councilman Richard Kotecki, in August, hired an electrical contractor for work at Wolf Pak Park that Kotecki said cost more than he anticipated. The bill exceeded $10,000, forcing council to violate a state ordinance concerning the fair-bidding process should it sign the check.

The Third Class City Code stipulates that council solicit bids for jobs exceeding $10,000. Council did not solicit bids for the work.

Moreover, council violated a city ordinance that requires quotes from at least three businesses for work that exceeds $4,000. However, there is no penalty for violating that ordinance.

Kotecki hired Artman Electrical Contracting of Lower Burrell for three jobs that among other things included running underground wires and installing new fuse boxes. Bill Artman, company owner, said in a Thursday phone interview that the city owes $11,300 for the work.

Council, meanwhile, said Thursday that there are discrepancies as to how much it owes. Kotecki said the contractor gave the city three bills totaling $10,200, which is far less than the near $14,000 figure solicitor Steve Yakopec gave the city.

Whatever the cost, council said it is unsure where it will find the money to pay the bill.

City Clerk Ed Kirkwood said the money to pay the bill isn't available from the parks and recreation department, of which Kotecki is chairman.

"We're going to have to transfer from somewhere else," Kirkwood said. "The problem is, I don't know where we're going to transfer from."

Complicating matters is Westmoreland County Court of Common Pleas Judge Charles Loughran's request that the city better advertise its petition to have the consent order awarded and that it clarify its argument.

Loughran said in a phone interview Wednesday that it appeared as if the city was suing Artman, when in reality Artman should be suing the city.

"I told them, 'He should be suing you,'" Loughran said.

Artman said he is unsure how he will deal with the city, saying he most likely will pursue a lawsuit if the city doesn't present a good plan for payment.

Council said it will adhere to Loughran's requests and will authorize a plan of attack at its Monday meeting.

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