During an often contentious meeting Wednesday, Lansford Borough Council deadlocked on a vote to allow borough secretary-treasurer Renee Slakoper to work from home due to a mold problem at the borough offices above the American Fire Co. at 23 East Patterson Street.
Council members Lenny Kovach, Danielle Smith and president Adam Webber voted to allow Slakoper, who has a doctor's note attesting to her sensitivity to the mold, to work from home. She is able to be in the office for small slices of time. Council members Tommy Vadyak, Mary Kruczek and Rosemary Cannon were opposed, citing concerns about confidentiality and the possibility of misplaced materials. Vadyak asked why Slakoper couldn't use a laptop and work from the borough community center or code enforcement office, which is on the second floor of the center.
Councilman Andrew Snyder had left the meeting earlier to go to work.
Solicitor Michael Greek said "there are some risks. There are some liability issues."
Council will schedule a special meeting to allow Mayor Ron Hood, who did not attend the public meeting, to break the tie. If the vote falls in Slakoper's favor, council will have to determine what tasks she will be able to do from home and what documents she may take out of the office.
Kruczek said she was concerned because the borough is behind on some bill payments, and it is important that the invoices be paid promptly.
In a related matter, Vadyak and Cannon both took the floor during public participation time to take Webber to task for having authorized moving the borough office to an adjacent room without informing some other council members.
Smith, who is on the Public safety Committee along with Webber, said she had been informed about the move.
Webber had the office moved on Friday, April 1.
Vadyak said he wanted whoever gave the order to move the office to pay the $720 cost. Webber said he is paid $900 a year by the borough for serving on council, and that he would forego his stipend until the cost was recouped.
Cannon contended Webber, as council president, does not have the authority to make unilateral decisions. He could have called a special meeting to inform all of council, she said. Webber admitted he could have done that, and the office was shut down after he read a report by inspectors about the presence of mold.
Cannon read aloud the borough code outlining the duties and powers of the president. "He does not have the executive power to do what he did," she said.
The debate over moving the office and allowing Slakoper to work from home grew heated at times, with Kovach loudly arguing that former secretary-treasurer Nicole Tessitore had been allowed to work from home, and that the mold problem made the office move absolutely necessary.
The office should have been moved earlier, he said.
"We exposed these people for how many months to a mold situation," he said. Kovach said the problem was discovered in January.
Vadyak also questioned the borrowing of $100,000 from the sewer transmission fund to pay bills, saying the remainder of the money should have been returned to the account but was not. He, Webber and Kovach argued the matter, which ended with a decision to have a representative from the bank attend the May meeting to explain what needs to be done.
Vadyak also asked Webber about the Keystone Opportunity Zone status of the former Panther Valley Middle School on Bertsch Street, which Webber owns. Webber said the tax-free status period is over and that he has received a tax bill for the property.
Cannon also questioned whether a letter from engineers Cowan Associates was distributed to all council members. The letter had been addressed to Webber. Cannon reminded him that all borough correspondence must be distributed to all council members. Webber said he put copies of the letter into council members' packets.