Up to date news on the happenings in Eddystone, PA. For such a small town, there's always BIG drama...inside and outside Borough Council Chambers.

2013 Draws to a Close with New Hope for Future of Eddystone

A series of decisions over the past several days by the members of Borough Council who show up to meetings seem to have the Borough poised to make positive growth in the new year. On Monday, Council voted 4-0 (Paterson, Reeves, Stewart, and Tatisciore) with one abstention (Thompson) to honorably discharge Bill Conner. Pappas, Kerns, and Orr were not present at the meeting for yet another month.

The mood in Council chambers was quiet when the motion passed, with no comment or response from either the Council members or the audience. Council moved on with the regular business after the vote without comment. Councilman Stewart later commented that the decision was a difficult one but one that was in the best interest of the Borough. That statement is true. If Conner is in fact not fit for duty, it is in the best interest of the Borough residents to pay a chief who can perform the actions of a police officer.

The Council will now need to look for a new chief. Current acting chief, Police Officer Ed Mokshefsky, will most likely be given serious consideration for the top job. Mokshefsky has handled himself extremely well over the past several months, given the cavernous divide between the Council and the Mayor. I can’t imagine the tight rope that he has had to walk has been easy, given that his supervisors have literally given him opposite directives for six plus months (Mayor says no bike patrol, Council says yes to the bike patrol). It would seem like Mokshefsky deserves a shot at the top job given how well he has handled this scenario.

Council also voted 5-0 (Paterson, Thompson, Reeves, Stewart, and Tatisciore) on a preliminary budget that includes no reduction in services or tax increase. Again, Orr, Kerns, and Pappas were absent. I am quite pleased to see no tax increase, especially given the accusations Kerns’ made about the RRPOE group liking to spend money during the primary election. Apparently, they are able to balance a budget, as we have hired a full time police force, opened a fire house, have trash pick up twice per week with no fee, and had no raise in taxes.

The budget includes a tipping fee rate for trash that is equal to this year’s fees ($40,000). However, the more residents recycle, the less that fee will be. If only 20% recycle, which is the RRPOE goal, that fee will decrease to $32,000. Start talking to your neighbors. Recycling will not only help the environment. It was save tax money. Recycling is scheduled to start the first full week of January. The more resident recycle, the less we pay in tipping fees.

It does appear that the sewer fee may increase due to Delcora’s fees changing, but that is only going to be about $20-30 more for the year. The Council is also exploring moving to a “usage fee” instead of a flat rate sewer rate, which will help senior citizens.

Finally, the Council voted 5-0 (same as the budget vote) to give the Police Secretary Christmas Eve off and a ½ day on New Year’s Eve, just like all of the other non-uniform employees of the Borough. Apparently, the Council had to do this because this employee was told by the Mayor that she had to work those days, despite all of the other employees being given the time off.

Which brings me to my final mention of Ralph Orr. He most likely started doing this job with the best of intentions but somewhere along the way, he forgot that part of the process of being Mayor includes dealing with people who think differently. There are just too many people who once supported this guy whom now he can’t or won’t talk to that it just amazes me how he never learned how to not burn bridges. I can’t understand how Danielle Thompson fought harder than most to get Orr reelected, but when the hard questions were being asked, he has cowered away and hid while Thompson showed up month after month to meetings. Actually, I can believe it. That is just how Orr works. If he does not get his way, then he makes two year old temper tantrums look mild.

Here is my hope for the New Year. I hope Orr's last months as Mayor serve as a lesson to the incoming Council and Mayor. I am sure at one point Orr had great intentions, just like the RRPOE candidates do now. I hope the RRPOE candidates learn to deal with differing opinions in a way that Orr and his crew never could. Orr and his people cut people off, bullied them, or just flat out ignored them. Look at the shear quantity of people that once supported Orr who now have been ostracized or who have just chosen to walk away. I hope the RRPOE takes the time to, at minimum, hear all of the residents as they make decisions to advance the Borough. Working with everyone is not an easy task.

It is time for the residents to work together, even if that means disagreeing at times on the path forward. I hope we now have leaders that can show us how we can think differently but still work together to make this Borough this great place it can be.

Council seeks help of State Attorney General in determining Mayor's "Comp Time" recording keeping

For the second straight month, Mayor Orr skipped the regular meeting of Borough Council and therefore was unable to shed light on the controversary surrounding how he allowed Bill Conner to accrue 800+ hours of leave time despite the fact that Conner’s has been out of work for more than a year.

Despite the Mayor’s second consecutive absence, the Council shared two letters with residents.  Council President Karen Reeves wrote a letter in late October to Orr seeking the records surrounding the leave time.  Reeves stated in the letter that Orr has always told the Council that the records were available if they wanted to see them.  Nearly two weeks after receiving the letter, Orr has chosen not to share the records with either the Council or residents.

Also shared with residents was a past email sent by Bill Conner to the police force.  In that email, Conner stated that no officer could carry more than 12 hours of ‘comp time.’  It is extremely concerning that Conner would then accrue 800 hours when his officers could only accrue 12 hours.  While we can expect that management will always have certain ‘perks’ not given to the regular workers, the difference between 800 hours versus 12 hours seems to be more than a simple perk.  It should also be noted that it does not appear that Conner has ever had a written employment contract with the Borough, therefore this comp time accrual does not appear to be something that was ever ratified by the Council, meaning that the accounting of the 800 hours falls squarely and solely on the Mayor.

Council has turned the issue over to the State Attorney General’s office and requested an audit.

For the record, the Council requested an audit, not an agreed upon procedure. Some may recall the spring primary drama surrounding Councilman Kerns’ use of the word audit and theft when referring to the perceived issues with former Borough Manager Francie Howat and an agreed upon procedure that was suggested by Councilwoman Thompson.  The results of the agreed upon procedure released in October of last year showed no theft, no missing money, and in fact, found that the Borough actually had an extra $48.

I find it shocking that Councilman Kerns has said absolutely nothing about this issue, given his springtime outrage over the $48 excess as part of the findings in the agreed upon procedure.  Kerns was absent from the meeting, as was John Pappas.  It will be interesting to see if any of these three men show up to explain how such an egregious violation of weak accounting procedures could occur under their watch, especially given the findings of the agreed upon procedure last October. 

Unlike Kerns, I am going to use self-restraint and not accuse anyone of theft.  I am simply going to ask a few questions. If there is no record of how the hours were earned, how can Conner be paid for them?  Who authorized these payments?  How can payments be authorized without any accounting system?  Lastly, in the spring, Mayor Orr stated in the newspaper that Bill Conner did the payroll for the police department.  Is that not a conflict of interest that makes the whole lack of records a bit more concerning?  To be fair, Conner should not be responsible to answer for 12 hours of leave time, as that is the amount of time the officers were allowed to accrue.  We should get answers about the other 788 hours, though.

The great thing about Council’s decision to request an audit is that the State Attorney General’s office will be in total control and have the ability to get the answers tax payers deserve.  The other easy solution to this problem, as has been written and stated for at least 3 months now, is that the Mayor could simply release the records.  The fact that the request for records has been going on for several months, that the Mayor refuses to comment in the newspaper, that the Mayor is now skipping meetings, and that there are still no records released leads me to wonder if in fact the records ever existed in a formal manner prior to the requests being made.  After all, if we are paying tens of thousands of dollars to an employee who is not working, shouldn’t taxpayers know how that money was earned?  Whether it is through the Mayor talking, or an audit by the State Attorney General, residents will soon learn what is going on.

General Election Brings a Turning Point

Congratulations to the members of the RRPOE (Despo Tatisciore, Karen Reeves, Bill Stewart, Beth Gross and Allen Reeves) and also to Bob Donahue, for their success in yesterday's general election. I want to also congratulate all of the write-in candidates (Kelly Ann Butkus, Norm Quinn and Deb Tompkins) for their tremendous efforts in their campaigns. Once again, residents came out in droves to show support for the candidates.
It was overwhelming to see the support for each ticket, but it was also a little sad to see such a great divide in the town. What did this election prove? I mean the results were the same as in the primary back in May. What did the last couple of months accomplish other than pitting residents against each other yet again?
I'm pretty sure we all want the same things...drugs off the streets, our kids to be safe, home prices rise, economic development. The list goes on and on. How can such a small town be divided when we want the same end results?
I don't know the answer but I do know that we can now put this election behind us. The results are in and the people have spoken (again). It's time to put away the pettiness and get down to the business of rebuilding this town...socially and economically. The Council, Council-Elect and new Mayor can only do so much. We, as a community, need to do our part too. Instead of making snarky remarks on social media, maybe try getting to know your neighbors in person. After all, whether life-long residents or new to the neighborhood, we're all Eddystoners.