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Penn Forest meeting ends in name calling

Published October 08. 2013 05:00PM

The agenda for the Oct. 7 Penn Forest board of supervisors meeting appeared straight forward, with nothing controversial on tap. Supervisor Paul Montemuro was absent and Supervisor Alan Katz attended the meeting by speaker phone.

The board whizzed through the public comment segment with only one brief matter. Resident Bob Serafini questioned whether or not the Jim Thorpe Area School District needed to be in agreement with the direction the township has taken with the park that is being developed along Route 903, and whether or not the school district could require anything the township has not allowed for that could increase the cost of the park.

"That has never been an issue as long as I have been involved with this project," said Supervisor Warren Reiner.

What appears to be the major issue plaguing Penn Forest Township right now is the lack of a proper accounting system. During the special meeting held on Sept. 26 the board agreed to hire a "government fund accountant" to get the township ready for an audit for the fiscal year 2012.

The decision to hire the full-time accountant was 3-2.

At Monday's meeting, Chairwomen Christine Fazio made two motions relative to the matter; the first motion was that the township secretaries would take the upcoming Columbus Day holiday for training on the Edmunds software. In exchange the township building will be closed on the Friday following Thanksgiving to make up the holiday missed by the staff.

Fazio made a second motion to authorize secretary Mary Ann Lewellyn to work the three remaining Saturdays in October on overtime, to work on the accounting deficiencies. Katz wanted to include November in the motion as well, but the board decided to start with October only at this time.

Later in the meeting Reiner made a motion to hire the accounting firm of Weseloh Carney & Company LLC to oversee and correct the accounting deficiencies.

"I don't see any reason to hire a full-time accountant when we have a quote here from a company that says they can do what we need done and it's not going to cost us $35,000 or more a year," said Reiner.

The proposal by Reiner brought about a heated discussion and clearly angered both Katz and Fazio. Katz raged at Reiner using a number of expletives and after a number of residents called for Katz to be "hung up on," Fazio took Katz off speaker.

Katz was put back on speaker phone, but hung up prior to Reiner's motion coming to a vote.

The motion to hire Weseloh Carney was made.

"No, I don't like to be blindsided in this manner," said Fazio.

Reiner and Supervisor Judy Knappenberger voted yes. With both Montemuro and Katz absent, the vote passed.

The Weseloh Carney proposal stated that they would propose as soon as possible to:

• Assist with the completion of bank reconciliations to current;

• Address the accuracy of the balances transferred to Edmunds, and adjust as needed;

• Analytically review major balances at Dec. 31, 2012 and adjust accordingly;

• Prepare the general ledger and support at Dec. 31, 2012 for independent audit;

• Review the balances this year through September, correcting accordingly;

• Work with township personnel throughout the process so that they understand the transactions and accounting procedures.

The only significant correspondence received for the month came from the Carbon County Commissioners regarding the 9-1-1 Center fees for 2014. The township currently pays $7,429 per year. According to the letter the fees for 2014 will be $21,557 per year. The reason given for the increase is that the previous fee is a per capita based on the 1990 census. The 2014 fees are based on the 2010 census.

"I believe that some of that increase is related to improvements made to the 9-1-1 Center," explained Katz earlier in the meeting. He asked the township secretary to seek clarification as to how much of the increase was related to the improvements.

Under the treasurer's report there was an issue raised by Katz related to America Coast to Coast, the company recently hired to handle payroll and workers' compensation insurance. Katz expressed concern over mistakes on pay checks and with the payment and accounting of the payroll taxes.

Lewellyn assured Katz that while there had been some minor issues, whenever anything was brought to the attention of ACTC it was corrected in a timely manner.

Katz still directed Lewellyn to reconcile each payroll report.

Also addressed was the ongoing issue with the Right to Know requests. In the past some information was released related to the township solicitor, which according to Katz, was a violation of attorney/client privilege. At a recent meeting there was a motion making solicitor Gregory Mousseau the Right to Know officer.

"I received 32 Right to Know requests this month," said Mousseau. "Most of them were for permitting. I don't need to see perk reports."

Mousseau requested the board reconsider its decision and empower the township secretary, or some other person to review the requests and to involve him when the matter warrants his attention.

"Whomever you appoint should be well qualified and they need to be allowed to stay up to date, even if that means attending seminars every six months or so," said Mousseau.

A motion was made to get two employees trained in October.

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