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LST Council – A Farce in 3 Acts – Act 1

Now that we’re deep into the dog days of summer there seem to be even more shenanigans than usual going on in the township, some obvious to the residents and some not so obvious.  Since there’s so much to report on, let’s divide it into 3 acts:

Act 1 – July 22, 2022 – a review of the “special meeting” held on this date at 9:30 AM, moved from the regular date of July 22.

Act 2 – Library Follies – the latest developments in the ongoing saga of the (non)relationship with the Hellertown Area Library

Act 3 – Divorce Settlements – the latest fall-out from the inability of the LST Council to work and play well with others.

As previously reported, the LST Council opted to cancel the regularly scheduled meeting for Wednesday, July 20 at 6:30 PM and instead call a “special meeting” for Friday, July 22 at 9:30 AM.  There were only two items on the agenda – the appointment of a new township manager and a bid award for the Saucon Valley Terrace paving project.

It was not clear why these two items could not have been handled at the regularly scheduled meeting time since no one bothered to explain why the special meeting was necessary, even though that question was asked by Laura Ray during the public comment period on agenda items.   She was, as usual, ignored.  Carocci had indicated at the June Council meeting that it was unlikely that the manager position would be filled before August, so there was obviously no rush there.  Upon consideration of the paving project bid there was some comment about needing to get the order in for piping before the asphalt plant shuts down production for the winter, so perhaps that was it.  Who knows?

But before we continue, let’s go back to the very beginning of the meeting.  Perhaps it was the heat outside but, for a council that is known for its rudeness, this meeting exemplified peak rudeness right from the get-go.  Following the call to order, roll call and the introduction of newly appointed council member Mark Inglis (which reminds me, we didn’t see him sworn in), Mrs. deLeon raised a question about the agenda for the special meeting.  She pointed out that Resolution #31-2022, adopted on January 3, 2022, specified an order of business for “all regular and special meetings”.  That order of business included the opening, public comment on agenda items, presentations/hearings, developer items, township business items, miscellaneous business items, council & staff reports, and public comment on non-agenda items.  She questioned why, specifically, council and staff reports were not included on the agenda.

Solicitor Treadwell responded that it was a special meeting and therefore the president could call the meeting and choose what was on the agenda.  Mrs. deLeon pointed out that this was not what this recently adopted resolution said at all. Treadwell condescendingly replied that it was a “special meeting” and those were different and that the Township Administrative Code overrode whatever that resolution was that was passed in January.

On the face of it, this is ridiculous.  Why would a solicitor who knew what he was doing allow a township council to adopt a resolution that included an agenda order for “regular and special meetings” that he knew could be overridden by the Council president?  This was not a resolution from years ago.  This was in January.  It clearly states that this is the order of business.

Not only that, but in reviewing the Township Administrative Code, your blogger discovered that there is no indication AT ALL of what the order of business should be for any regular or special meetings.  Nor does it indicate that the president has the right to set the agenda for a special meeting.  How council meetings are to be conducted is covered in §5-8. F. Meetings.  

The only reference to a “special meeting” is in §5-8. F. (4) which calls for a special meeting for review of the proposed budget.  There is also reference to a meeting in §5-8. F. (7) to deal with an actual emergency involving clear and present danger to life or property at which ONLY that matter can be discussed. I hardly think the hiring of a manager or the approval of a bid qualifies under that description.

So where does this claim that Banonis can make up whatever agenda he wants come from?  I hope Solicitor Treadwell will enlighten us because as of right now, it looks like he was just blowing smoke.

As Mrs. deLeon continued to question Treadwell’s claim, you can hear on the livestream of the meeting at 3:22, Carocci says, “Pledge of Allegiance,” then stands up and starts reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, cutting off Mrs. deLeon. The rest of the Council follows along.  I’ll point out that Carocci has absolutely no authority to run the meeting.  That’s Banonis’ job.  It was simply one of the rudest behaviors I’ve ever seen in a public forum.

Next we come to the public comment portion on agenda items.  Banonis calls Laura Ray’s name and announces her specific home address. Again, someone seems to have forgotten to tell him that there has been a change to the Sunshine Act that makes the requirement of the public announcement of one’s home address illegal.  While the ruling in Marshall v. Amuso, 2021 WL 53590202 (E.D. Pa. Nov. 17, 2021) deals specifically with requiring attendees of public meetings to state their home address before speaking because of the chilling effect that can have on free speech in violation of the Free Speech Clause of the United States Constitution, I cannot imagine that the announcement of the speaker’s home address by the president of the council does not have exactly the same effect.  Further in the ruling, the Court points out that the speaker equally has the right to refrain from speaking when requested to announce his/her address, but when the president of Council does it arbitrarily, that right has been taken away.

The Court does hold that it is acceptable to request the speaker’s address on a sign-in sheet but clearly finds the announcement of that address unconstitutional. Perhaps until Banonis refrains from publicly announcing the speaker’s address, residents should leave that space on the form blank.  Or maybe Treadwell could do some research on this.

Moving On …

As I mentioned, in the public comment period Laura Ray asked why this special meeting was necessary and got no response.  Following her comments, Mrs. deLeon began to reply to Ms. Ray’s question (at 6:05 on the livestream) but Banonis shut her down with a comment to the effect that this is for “public comment,” not for council.  Carocci chimed in saying, “You can’t do that.”  Excuse me?  A council person now cannot respond to a resident’s question?  Again, on a scale of 1 to 10, that’s an 11 rude, arrogant and wrong.

Appointment of a New Township Manager

Next up is the appointment of the new township manager, someone by the name of Mark Hudson.  If you’d like to know more about him, I’m sorry.  You’re out of luck. We were allowed to know that he is currently the township manager of Lower Frederick Township and before that he was in Horsham Township.  And the interim manager we have now thinks he’s really swell and so does Carocci.  But a resumé?  Maybe printed so we could read it?  Forget it.  You get one sentence accompanying the agenda saying the council will appoint him.

The interim manager, Peter Marshall, did mention that there were 20 applicants for the position of which 6 were qualified.  Three of those came from too far away and relocation costs would have been prohibitive. That left three nearby of which two had extensive manager experience.  Now don’t you feel better?

Of course there was no mention of what we’ll be paying this person.  They voted to hire him with no public statement of what he would be paid.  After the vote, Mrs. deLeon asked that question and was finally told the salary is $128,000 plus benefits which Treadwell outlined but didn’t put a price tag on.  Mrs. deLeon asked if it wasn’t necessary to approve the salary. No direct reply. Well then, she asked, what is budgeted for his position?  Finance Director Cathy Gorman responded $107,000 which wasn’t correct.  In fact, the 2022 approved and published budget indicates $104,318 is budgeted for that position for this year.  Then since I guess Banonis had just forgotten about that necessity of approving the salary, he moved approval of the salary and benefits package and it passed 5-0.

Mrs. deLeon questioned whether since that was such a large increase didn’t it require approval of a budget adjustment by council?  The answer to that from Ms. Gorman was yes, but she didn’t have it ready to go so it would have to wait until the next meeting.

To answer a few of the questions that I know are popping in to your mind:

  • When will he be starting?  No clue.
  • How much of an increase is that over the budgeted amount?  $23,682 or  22.7%
  • Isn’t that a really big increase?  You bet. 
  • Why?  Who knows. 
  • Does he have a lot more experience or education?  Don’t know.  Never saw a resumé.
  • Isn’t that pretty crappy stewardship of the township’s money?  Yup.

Paving Project Bid Award

The second item on the agenda, possibly the one that required a “special meeting” but who knows, was the awarding of a bid for the paving of Saucon Valley Terrace.  In order to get the pipe necessary for the project, the order has be placed in a very narrow window.  If the order doesn’t go in soon, the project has to be postponed another year.  Of course it was approved 5-0.  It was nice of Banonis to explain that we’re running a surplus and so this doesn’t cause a problem.

Does it bother anyone that the surplus we’re running can accommodate a $1,070,793 project at the blink of an eye?

Gone in 16 Minutes

So there you have it.  More than $1,200,000 of our tax money spent in less than 16 minutes in front of an audience of about 15 people.  That’s truly transparent government. Luckily, more than 300 residents have viewed it on the livestream video, but of course, they couldn’t say anything.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

Next Township Council Meeting – Wednesday, August 17, 6:30 PM – Town Hall

As a service to the community, the meeting will be live-streamed on the Saucon Shenanigans Facebook page.

DAYS TILL WE LOSE LIBRARY SERVICES: 140

DAYS TILL THE NEXT LOCAL GENERAL ELECTION: 452


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