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Carbon County commssioners again argue Sunshine Law

Published January 20. 2012 05:01PM

The question of the legality of a meeting held in private by the Carbon County majority commissioners was again questioned by the minority commissioner.

During the county commissioners' meeting on Thursday, Commissioner William O'Gurek again asked about the status of his inquiry on a meeting held Jan. 10 by Commissioners Wayne Nothstein and Thomas J. Gerhard regarding the hiring of attorney Robert S. Frycklund as the new tax claim/tax assessment solicitor.

Nothstein responded to O'Gurek, saying that "it was never intentional to violate the Sunshine Law."

He added that he felt they did not violate the act because the meeting was informational in nature and did not contain deliberations or official decisions.

Nothstein said that county solicitor Daniel Miscavige sent O'Gurek a memorandum, addressing his findings.

Miscavige added that since the matter was brought up and discussed at a public meeting, as well as voted on, "generally under case law, there is no violation."

O'Gurek said he heard what Nothstein said regarding that it was never his intent to violate the act.

"I guess the question is intent or not," he said. "Was it a violation? That's where we're at."

He then addressed Miscavige, saying that he respects the memorandum, but he feels that the opinion was based only on information given by the majority commissioners and not on specifics he knew of, including offering a job and discussing the specifics of that job.

"That, in my estimations, violates the Sunshine Act in that it goes outside the scope of what you identified as deliberations," O'Gurek said.

He then again asked what kind of meeting it was.

Nothstein said that he said it was an informational meeting.

Gerhard added that he also felt there was no violation because the meeting was informational in nature.

He then read Miscavige's memorandum.

O'Gurek said that if the majority commissioners are not planning to report further on this matter, then he will file a complaint in the Office of District Justice regarding the meeting and let them decide if the pair was in violation of the Sunshine Act or not.

"I want some resolution on this," O'Gurek said. "I understand the discussion of the (Jan. 10) meeting on Thursday (Jan. 12) at the meeting vacates the problem and corrects that problem, but I'm looking for an admission that these two guys met behind closed doors, made a decision to hire a solicitor, told the man he got the job and discussed it with the two department heads, who incidentally told me they were told that the man they were behind closed doors with was going to be the solicitor. If that isn't outside the scope of the Sunshine Act then I don't know what is."

Nothstein ended the conversation at that point because it could possibly become a legal issue.

Following the meeting, Gerhard aired his opinion of O'Gurek's behavior since being appointed to fill the vacant commissioners' spot.

"It's been a rocky start and it's been a question of Commissioner Nothstein and myself violating the Sunshine Act and I don't think we have. But my question is to Commissioner O'Gurek," Gerhard said. "His statement was he wanted to continue his work here as a county commissioner and I believe our job is to make good decisions that are in the best interest of Carbon County.

"So far I don't believe that he has done that. I would also like to point out that you were out-voted by the voters by unanimous decision and you were reappointed and you accepted that appointment and we congratulated you on that appointment and we're trying to work with you but you are not making life easy for us. I think we got to get over the election. We've got to put our differences behind us, our personalities behind us and move on."

O'Gurek responded, pointing out that he received 5,100 votes so it was not a unanimous decision.

Gerhard corrected himself, saying that O'Gurek was "overwhelmingly voted out of office."

Nothstein then weighed in, saying that things need to change.

"I don't want to sit here for four years and have to go through this garbage," he said. "It's time we move on. You (Commissioner O'Gurek) do what you got to do but I think it's time we move on for the betterment of this county. I think we should show a good effort in trying to do that."

In other matters, Nothstein updated the board on the status of the Packerton Yards project.

He explained he went to the Mahoning Township Zoning Board meeting and they refused to give the county waivers.

"One of the board members also made the statement, 'he doesn't want to see industry down there,' although it's zoned industry," Nothstein said. "I think my perspective on this is our last ditch effort on this project is to again go to the (Mahoning Township) supervisors and ask if they would grant those waivers and if not I don't want to spend anymore money on this project. I will not spend any money on that project until I know we are going to get those waivers. Without those waivers we are going nowhere."

He said that if the county cannot proceed with getting access to the site, he is afraid that the property won't even be able to be sold.

He said he will again ask the supervisors to sign the waivers so the county can proceed with the project.

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