A Lansford borough councilman is challenging President Adam Webber's right to be on the board, saying Webber is not qualified to hold the seat because, although he owns a home in town, he actually lives in McAdoo.
Councilman Tommy Vadyak at a public meeting Wednesday announced he would be filing the challenge. He presented Webber's water bill, obtained through the Right To Know law, as proof that Webber's house at 356 W. Ridge St., is not where Webber lives.
The bill shows that the household used only 300 gallons of water from April 20 through July 20. That's 9,000 gallons less than the amount for the same time period last year. The water usage appears to have dropped sharply after Dec. 20, 2010. According to the bill, water usage had averaged 7,925 gallons per quarter since service was started in January 2008.
Further, Vadyak said, neighbors say Webber does not live there.
"Anyone who lives in the neighborhood can verify that," said Councilwoman Rosemary Cannon.
"Mr. (David) Benevy couldn't serve on council because he wasn't a resident of Lansford, so how can Mr. Webber serve on council when obviously he's not a resident of Lansford," Vadyak said.
Borough businessman Benevy had applied for the seat left vacant when former council President Bob Gaughan resigned in November 2010. His application was rejected because he lives outside the area. Benevy, who said he was invested in Lansford because he owns a business there, had asked council to amend the residency policy, but the matter was never taken up. The only other applicant, Cannon, was appointed to Gaughan's seat on Dec. 8.
Solicitor Michael Greek said Vadyak could certainly challenge Webber's right to hold the office. However, he said, "It will take a little more than a water bill."
Webber was absent from the meeting, and had also missed a recent committee meeting, Cannon said. Webber, who moved to the borough from Long Island a few years ago, was elected in November.
In an emailed response to a request for comment, Webber wrote "I hope that he has a good attorney. There is no law that states I cannot visit my children in McAdoo. Yes, their mother lives there." Further, Webber wrote that "This is just another reason why Lansford is not progressing. Rather then focus on the very real problems that the borough has, it is easier to try and make problems."
Also on Wednesday, council authorized Greek to research whether the borough should ask that the company that bonded former secretary-treasurer Renee Slakoper pay any fees or penalties stemming from unpaid bills.
Council Vice-President Mary Kruczek, who volunteered to straighten out the mess, has been bonded and is spending hours sorting through the piles of unpaid bills, unrecorded deposits and correspondence that have accumulated in the borough office.
Slakoper was hired on March 2010, after secretary-treasurer Nicole (Tessitore) Beckett resigned to take a similar job with Lehighton Borough. Since then, the borough has plunged into a financial quagmire, with bills going unpaid, accounts not reconciled and deposits not recorded. Slakoper resigned as of May 25. Council only recently hired a replacement, Beth Ann Seymour of Coaldale, who starts Aug. 1.
Kruzcek explained the process she's going through to organize the mess.
"It's a financial mess disarray and disorder. We have quite a lot of bills, and many are outstanding," she said.
That prompted Vadyak to move that the bonding company be asked to pay the fees and penalties. Greek said that council would have to provide details, including the hours that Slakoper worked in a bill-paying capacity and whether there was enough money coming in to pay the bills during that time.
With councilmen Webber, Lenny Kovach and Andrew Snyder absent, Vadyak, Cannon and Kruzcek voted in favor of Vadyak's proposal, with councilwoman Danielle Smith opposing.
In a related matter, Vadyak also moved to have Greek research whether the borough could make administrators who signed off on Slakoper's overtime hours pay for the time that was logged but not explained. Slakoper put in for 434.5 hours of overtime, Cannon said.