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Council battle explodes

| Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2006

A bitter feud between Tarentum Councilwoman Ginger Sopcak and President Carl Magnetta has come to a head after Monday's meeting during which a councilman said it was rumored that Sopcak had moved from the borough and accused her of missing the last two meetings.

However, although Sopcak was absent from council's meeting Monday, borough attendance records note she was present at council's last meeting in July, and had missed only one other meeting within the past six months.

Magnetta was absent for June's meeting, when Councilwoman Mary Newcomer acted as president.

Sopcak's neighbors say that she has definitely not moved and that they see her every day. None wished to be named.

Sopcak said that she has not moved. She said earlier this month, a friend who owns a business in Tarentum saw signs stapled to posts on Lock Street stating that she had moved from the borough. She said she does not know who posted the signs.

Magnetta said that he doesn't believe that she still lives at the Tarentum residence.

"We have pictures neighbors have took of her moving all of her stuff out," Magnetta said. "She'll park a car there and leave a light on. She is playing a game."

In April, council voted to oust Magnetta as president, saying that the feud between Magnetta and Sopcak was preventing council from operating effectively.

Newcomer then took over the president's post, only to be ousted two months later with Magnetta re-elected.

Sopcak says that the problems have extended into her work life, claiming that someone called her employer on behalf of Tarentum Borough, stating that she was sending faxes of a political nature on behalf of her employer.

"I had sent memos saying, yes, I need things put on the agenda, but it was by no means from a professional standpoint, it was by my role as an elected official," Sopcak said.

Sopcak feels that certain members of council are trying to intimidate her into resigning.

"Some members of council feel that their position, power and or authority is not to be challenged or questioned, and they will stop at nothing for anyone who questions or challenges that," Sopcak said.

Newcomer feels the same way, stating that the two female members of council are not members of what they call, "the boys' club."

"They are the good old boys and they will do anything they want to do," Newcomer said.

Magnetta said that council is not a boys' club and that Sopcak wants to wreak havoc on the borough.

"I tried to work with her and I'll tell you what, it's impossible," Magnetta said. "When Ginger is not at the meetings, everything runs so smooth, but when she is there, there is nothing but chaos."

Magnetta claims that Sopcak aims to disrupt the meetings by "asking and prolonging the meetings with idiotic questions."

Newcomer said that when she was ousted from her post as president in June, Councilman Bill Rossey was hired, without an interview, as borough manager the same day Magnetta was re-elected to replace her. She sees it as a sign of closed-door politics.

"The reason I was so upset about that was because it is against policy to hire without interviewing," Newcomer said. "The interview process has to be done, and they violated that."

Newcomer also said that council violated Robert's Rules of Order as well by hiring Rossey so quickly and said that the abrupt changes were a matter of closed-door politics.

"They never opened up that job for anyone else," Newcomer said.

Magnetta said that if Newcomer had a problem with the hire, she should have brought it up at the meeting. He said that Rossey is perfectly capable for the job.

While Sopcak claims that she has received death threats along with the phone calls to her employer, she is not sure how long she will remain on council.

"It makes me wonder how much of a difference I can really make in that cesspool," Sopcak said.

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