Council comes under fire by Huntzinger

Fasnacht refuses to return camera

By Rebecca Zemencik, Managing Editor •

TREMONT – Charlie Huntzinger, a Tremont resident, who once served on the borough council for many years and remains active in the community, addressed Tremont Borough Council Monday, May 10, concerning several situations.
Huntzinger filed a request to be heard at the May meeting on March 21. He wanted to be heard on the following issues:
• What was the total cost to the borough for the investigation into alleged misconduct of the Borough Police Chief; including all legal fees, investigative fees, arbitrator fees and all other costs related to this matter?

“Cost of investigating alleged misconduct of Chief of Police fell far short of whatever those in council who authorized this expected to gain,” said Huntzinger.
“It appears that council continues their hunt for reasons to fire Chief Conway, such as recent allegations that he is responsible for leaving the police car with trash inside and recent pay issues in which he was short in pay is another sign along with all others that involve a steadfast way by council in continuing their effort to create a hostile work environment for Chief Conway.
“If council and the mayor find that they have cause to take corrective action for any alleged rule violation or misconduct infractions committed by Chief Conway it can be addressed through a progressive disciplinary procedure. This in turn will give Chief Conway his contractually right to the grievance and arbitration procedure to remedy the charges brought forth by the Mayor or council.
“Following this meeting I will meet with Chief Conway to assist him with filing a complaint with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission against Borough Council members, current and past, singularly and collectively for creating a hostile work environment.”
Huntzinger provided figures that he said were taken from borough records and invoices for the Conway investigation: Attorney fees, Hobbs: $2,610; Reidlinger, $450 (cancelled arbitration hearing) and $5,392.50 (investigation fee). Total cost $8,452.50.
“I feel this is irrelevant,” said James G. Scheibley, council president. “The situation was brought to our attention and we had to investigate it. It had to be done.”
“I don’t know all the details, but I don’t understand why it wasn’t investigated until six months later,” said Huntzinger. “Why wasn’t an investigation conducted when the allegations allegedly occurred?” asked Huntzinger. “He deserves his day in court.”
“I immediately made phone calls when it was brought to my attention,” said Scheibley.
• 39 South Crescent Street Property.
“Did the borough own the property at the time the repairs to the roof occurred?” asked Huntzinger. “Who authorized the roof repairs? What was the cost of the roof repair? During a recent meeting of Borough Council, the Code Enforcement Officer stated there were three bids received for the roof repair for this property. Who were the bidders and what was the $ amount of the bids that each offered? What was the cost tot he borough to eventually own title to the property? (Include all legal fees). What was the $ amount the borough received for the sale of this property? Who in Council authorized the Code Enforcement Officer to sell the Borough property without placing it out for bid? Was the sale of this property in the manner in which it was done considered a violation of the Borough Code or any other statute relating to the sale of Borough property? (If so, what is the remedy)?” asked Huntzinger.
Huntzinger presented a packet of information he gathered from borough records and invoices to Solicitor Melissa Kelso. He suggested she and council get together and give him answers at a later meeting.
“I don’t believe the entire event is in legal bounds of council authority,” said Huntzinger.
• Fees associated with vacating a portion of South Pine Street.
“After a decision was made by Council to vacate a portion of S. Pine Street, certain fees were incurred by the borough to take this action, what was the cost to the borough,?” asked Huntzinger. “Why did council forgo vacating this portion of S. Pine Street?”
Huntzinger said the solicitor should review that as well before council gives him an answer.
• My response to Councilman Phil Kintzel’s comments of February 15, council meeting.
“I acknowledge Mr. Kintzel’s work as a volunteer for maintenance of the community swimming pool and the work he did as a volunteer for this important summer recreational activity,” said Huntzinger. “His absence will be felt.”
Huntzinger referred to the minutes of the February 15th meeting and he quoted Kintzel.
“Following his (Kintzel’s) statement, Kintzel said he puts almost 1000 hours into that pool every season,” said Huntzinger. “I question this and ask him to re-do the math. May 1 through August 31, 8.3 hours/day plus seven days a week for 120 consecutive days equals 999.96 hours. Since many full time employees typically work an annual schedule of 2080 hours it would be most interesting on how he could fit 1000 hours into a 3-4 month volunteer schedule.
“The tasks that Mr. Kintzel made reference to in his comments; filling employee vacancies, computer failure, etc. are not exceptional and must be considered as part of the responsibility an individual takes as an elected official. Certainly, the unexpected loss of employees and hiring of their replacements do no occur often, but they do occur. Power outage and snow removal are also not exceptional; they too also occur. All of the above tasks are, are tasks that are done in the normal course of business for those elected to run our borough.”
“What does this matter,?” asked Scheibley. “He’s a volunteer why does his time need backing up?”
“His math doesn’t add up and its an embellishment,” said Huntzinger.
“I”m publicly admitting I embellished the hours,” said Kintzel. “It’s a lot of time and the only thanks you get is from the kids.”
“Time must be spent on power outages,” said Kintzel. “That’s a public safety issues if power outages cause problems with getting messages to the police chief, etc. They must be dealt with.”
“I stand by my criticism of council; the amount of money spent trying to fire the chief of police, the questionable issues around the 39 South Crescent Street property and the lack of interest by council to actively seek grants that will benefit our community,” said Huntzinger. “All of this drives much of my criticism. These examples along with the way council officials are structured are operating every day, every hour on the verge of a conflict of interest.
“During the regular meeting of council on January 12, 2016, Mr. Kintzel, in the middle of the meeting stated, ‘Council has been criticized for doing things that may not be legal, well this time we are going to do something that is legal and I now make a motion to reopen the the reorganizational meeting.’
“For me this was an encouraging sign that a new found sense of responsibility has entered into the awareness of borough officials,” said Huntzinger. “I ask Mr. Kintzel, were you sincere in this statement or was this an isolated case used only for reopening of the organizational meeting,?” asked Huntzinger.
“If you are sincere, what is the remedy for the sale of the 39 Crescent Street property to get that back on a legal track? Will council pursue legal advice to correct this questionable issue What is the remedy for avoiding an ever threatening conflict of interest in the way council officials are currently structured?”
To this statement, Scheibley said if Huntzinger was referring to him serving as council president and Road supervisor, it is legal. Scheibley said he used to go through the same ordeal when he was involved with the Tremont Authority.
“I have nothing against Scheibley,” said Huntzinger. “I have a problem with him serving in both positions. Who is his boss?
Kintzel said the street department, which includes Kintzel and Councilman Roger Adams, “we are his boss,” said Kintzel.
Scheibley said the solicitor has looked into it and it is legal for him to serve in both positions.
“Finally,” said Huntzinger, “I commend your volunteer work at the community swimming pool. The most important contribution any individual can make to their community is to volunteer for tasks such as the one in which you took part. It is disappointing that you will no longer provide this service to your community. There are a number of reasons anyone may have to withdraw from volunteer services, not being able to accept criticism for how they conduct business as an elected official should not be one of them.”
• Status of wooden wall along Good Spring Street.
“If no one has examined the wall lately, there are many gaps in the structure,” said Huntzinger. “I don’t see how effective the wall will be in the event of stream flooding even with repairing the voids.
“Our engineering firm should make an assessment on the effectiveness this wall has for flood abatement. In a past flooding event some say the water came over the wall, I did not see this happening. However, when the the flood waters were receding the wall blocked the water in certain areas from re-entering the stream. If there is no value in keeping the wall, then remove it and pursue alternative solutions to limit flooding in that area. As the wall stand snow it impedes traffic on that street.”
• What is the status of the $2000 permit fee contribution request for the Devil’s Hole project?
“A contribution request for $2000 for permit fee should not be tabled any longer,” said Huntzinger. “Seeing the Devil’s Hole Project move along is a major step in flood abatement for our community and those living downstream from Tremont. If council has not already done so then I now ask council to make this contribution without further delay.”
Council did approve the contribution at the May 10 meeting with all voting in favor of the contribution.
In other business, Council requested that Jerry Fasnacht, the borough’s former code enforcement officer, return the digital camera, which is borough property to the borough.
Fasnacht claims his own camera was damaged while using it for the borough and he will not return the borough’s until they pay him for a new camera. He also said there is a video on the borough’s camera that he needs to have. He claims he tried to save the video to a laptop but it didn’t work.
Council suggested he keep the camera card, but return the camera.
“I use the camera to go places with the grandkids and I don’t want to be without a camera,” said Fasnacht. “Council needs to replace my camera before I will give this one back.”
“The camera is borough property,” said Yuschock.
Scheibley said council will discuss it and determine what they will do.
Council’s next meeting will be held Tuesday, June 14, at 6:30 p.m. at the Clay Street School.

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