Mahoning Township supervisors agreed unanimously on Monday evening to engage the Philadelphia law firm of Ballard Spahr for help in a legal matter but did not elaborate during the discussion as to what the legal matter was.
"All I will say is that we are seeking them to represent us in a matter in which we need help," said Township Chairman John Wieczorek.
During the brief discussion, Tom Nanovic, solicitor, said an initial contact was made with the firm during a visit they made to a municipality in the Lehigh Valley. While there were no details about the initial meeting, it appeared the engagement letter the supervisors acted upon was the result.
When questioned after the meeting as to the nature of the law firm's specialty, Nanovic answered on behalf of the supervisors they specialize in public labor law. A search of the Ballard Spahr website revealed the firm has a rather diverse practice but one of its areas of expertise is "Labor and Employment."
"I cannot say anymore about the matter at this time other than they are being engaged because of their expertise in public labor law with regard to police matters," Nanovic said.
Supervisors have found themselves in a myriad of apparent legal problems in recent months, including separate complaints by Police Chief Kenneth Barnes regarding the safety of the township building and the fuel tanks at the rear of the structure. In addition, Barnes has notified Wieczorek and Supervisors Linda Benner and Franklin Ruch he is intending to file suit for their involvement in what Wieczorek said was "creating a hostile work environment."
During the committee reports segment in the meeting, Supervisor Travis Steigerwalt said the chief will not attend the monthly meetings at this time but did not give a reason. Barnes had attended meetings infrequently until several months ago. He did begin attending for a few months until Steigerwalt's accusations of illegal meetings with the police department and supervisors as well as questions about implementing a special duty policy for Wal-Mart's Thanksgiving night sale.
Steigerwalt said there were two commendations that the chief provided for officers on the staff, but none were present to receive them.
"It's about time. They were supposed to be given in July," Benner said.
No one else responded to her comment.
Wieczorek revealed that road crew supervisor Ron Reeser and he were working on the initial recommendations of L&I's Boiler Unit that ruled the fuel tanks in their current state were a hazard. They contacted Soboyko about how to fix the diesel tank and were told it should be replaced with a double walled tank, that the pumps needed to be replaced and that electrical work would be also done. He said there were still some differences between the inspector and the repair company as to some interpretations, but indicated the township was currently exploring the installation of a new diesel tank.
The gasoline tank though would be removed from service and the township was exploring the use of gas cards similar to what other municipalities use. They are discussing the specifics of such a program with Fegley's, currently the only station open 24/7 in the township.