AlliedNews.com - Grove City, Pennsylvania

December 30, 2013

Public comment invited - 3 weeks late

Budget approved

By Felicia A. Petro/Senior Reporter
Allied News

SLIPPERY ROCK — Slippery Rock council was three weeks late in giving community members an opportunity for public comment on Tuesday - and a resident called one councilman "a disgrace."

Council met Tuesday for a project meeting, where President David Miller addressed an apparent violation of the Pennsylvania Sunshine Act during council's Nov. 19 budget meeting.

Miller opened public comment retroactive to that budget meeting to be compliant with the law, he said.

The public had not been allowed to comment Nov. 19 - nor was public comment listed on the agenda.

Councilman Itzi Meztli had questioned the no-comment period, which he found "disconcerting."

Vice president Christy Tichy, who ran that meeting in Miller's absence, and denied public comment twice that evening - had said no comment was allowed because the public hadn't seen the budget for the budget-only meeting.

Meztli expressed his concern about a possible Sunshine Act violation at council's Dec. 3 meeting as well, and asked that records show that he objected to the lack of public comment on Nov. 19.

Melissa Melewsky, Pennsylvania Newspaper Association media law counsel, explained in a Dec. 7 Allied News story about the apparent Sunshine Act violation, that public boards can manage but can't eliminate public comment at meetings.

After Tuesday's meeting, Miller said council spoke to borough solicitor Neva Stanger about the violation, who said that the Sunshine Law "gives leeway" for municipalities to correct transgressions.

Council member Royce Lorentz added that it was called a "curative" action.

Borough administrator Lucinda Lipko put together the Nov. 19 agenda and said after Tuesday's meeting - in the presence of Miller and Tichy - that leaving out public comment was "an amiss."

Tichy added that she did not know of Lipko's mistake - and simply went along with what the agenda read. She felt it to be correct, since council didn't vote at the Nov. 19 meeting, she noted.

During the retroactive comment period on Tuesday, Tom Holmes came down on councilman Bob Bowser concerning what he said at the Nov. 19 meeting about Slippery Rock property owner Frank Monteleone, who shot himself outside the borough building on Nov. 16. He was 52.

Monteleone was involved in a number of disputes with council, including the long-time bulk trash pickup date in May being changed to March - which created a nightmare for landlords cleaning up bulk trash from Slippery Rock University student-tenants who graduated or left town for summer break.

On Nov. 19, Meztli had asked for a moment of silence in memory of his friend, #and Bowser objected, referring to what he deemed to be threatening ads Monteleone bought last summer in the Butler Eagle against council.

Yelling ensued between council and part of the crowd, which included Monteleone's friends and family - including longtime girlfriend Bonnie Davis. Police Chief Terry Fedokovitz had to step in and silence the crowd, reminding them that someone had died.

"Bob Bowser, you were a disgrace to council that evening; a disgrace to Slippery Rock," Holmes said Tuesday. "I ask you to resign and ... get some anger management."

Bowser later apologized to Davis during the Nov. 19 meeting, but Holmes was not convinced, he said after Tuesday's meeting. "Many times he blows up then apologizes ... His apologies, to me, seem hollow."

Bowser responded to Holmes' comments on Tuesday: "I will not be resigning. I have got anger management and if Frank (Monteleone) would have gotten it, it may have helped him, too."

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In other business, council approved the 2014 general fund budget of $1,163,535, detailed in the Nov. 23 Allied News, and state liquid fuels budget of $67,028.

The spending plan is supported by property tax rates of 18.71 mills for general borough purposes; 2 mills for street lighting; and 1.165 mills for fire protection.

Council also set Lipko's 2014 salary at $46,664 and eliminated member contributions for the police and employee pension plans for 2014.

Published Dec. 14, 2013, in Allied News. Pick up a copy at 201 A Erie St., Grove City.