Council Strips O’Boyle of VP Role
MOUNT POCONO – Saying, “Franny is going to fade out - one way or another,” at the end of the January 19 regular meeting, council member Tom Neville made an off-the-agenda motion to replace council vice-president Francis O’Boyle with recently-appointed council member Patty Bucco.
Speaking in support of the motion, newly-appointed council member Ron Emilie said “I think it's time than Franny takes a little break”, to “give Franny a rest”, and “take a little bit off of Franny.”
O’Boyle made it clear he neither asked for nor needed such “help”. With over fifty years of continuous service to the borough, and has held every position in Mount Pocono government, the retired O’Boyle is recognized as far and away the most knowledgeable and experienced member of council.
He referred to this experience when he told the council, “I guess some people don’t appreciate anything.” He ruefully reminded Neville that he had helped him get elected to council, spending nearly the entire day at the polls two years ago urging votes for him, and that he also helped get Emilie and Bucco appointed to counsel. “I ran with Tom,” said O’Boyle. “I’ll have to watch who I hitch my horse to next time.”
‘Unorthodox’ & ‘Disrespectful’
According to interim mayor Michael Christopher Penn, the borough solicitor wanted Penn to tell the council that the move was “highly unorthodox” and “disrespectful”.
Bucco boasted she deserved the position because “everyone on council calls me, even Franny.”
When the motion was called for a vote Emilie, Neville, and Stacy Stewart-Keeler voted in favor. Council member Aida Montanez stopped the vote to ask the borough treasurer to comment. She had said that she “couldn’t live without” O’Boyle’s help, and reminded council that they had still not changed signature cards at the banks. They therefore needed O’Boyle to sign checks until they get the November minutes done to show the bank.
Neville amended his motion to make it effective February 1. Montanez then voted in favor of the motion.
With a majority having voted in favor of the motion, but before the vote was completed, the borough manager noted a possible procedural issue. Williams then asked Neville to restate the motion, which he did, this time with Emilie providing the second.
Williams agreed with Penn and voted against the proposal. Seeing Williams vote, Keeler changed her vote to match, Bucco voted yes, O’Boyle no.
After the motion passed 4-3, O’Boyle said, “I’m not too happy.” He told council he thought it was inappropriate but, “I’ll accept it. I’m a big boy, I can handle it.”
Borough’s Bad Rap
Also at the meeting, Montanez called Penn to task for sending out statements to the media regarding the recent shootings in Coolbaugh Township. Penn sent out the statements as the Mount Pocono mayor. Numerous reports in local and national media picked them up, many referring to the mayor’s comments, and identifying Mount Pocono as the location of the shootings. Montanez blamed Penn for the media errors. “You put a statement out there which created the impression that this was an incident in our borough.” Interrupting Montanez, Penn said, “I think that’s ridiculous.”
Montanez was upset that “Mount Pocono gets a bad rap for incidents that have occurred in surrounding areas,” and asked Penn to put another statement out clarifying that the incident did not occur in Mount Pocono. “I think it’s very important that we protect our reputation,” Montanez said. Penn refused to issue a clarification, saying the confusion wasn’t his fault.
COVID Shutters Borough Hall
For 2021, the council has instituted a second voting meeting each month and will conduct a work session before each meeting. On the first Mondays of the month, those meetings begin at 6 pm, on the third Mondays they start at 7 pm.
At the work session preceding this meeting, the public learned for the first time that, early the previous week, Borough Manager Joshua Walker had tested positive for COVID. As a result, all employees were sent home and told to get tested. The building was closed and cleaned. No other employees or elected officials tested positive.
Tax Collector Resigns
The borough tax collector, JoAnn Misuraca-Ficco, submitted her resignation as tax collector, effective January 31, citing “unforeseen circumstances”. Misuraca-Ficco said in an addendum that she would show the replacement how to do the job.
Mount Pocono’s tax collector is an elected position and the candidate must be a resident of the borough. Borough residents Don and Karen Struckle, of the Casino Theatre, asked to be considered for the role. But Williams and Penn had already arranged for Coolbaugh’s tax collector Gratz Washenik to attend the meeting. They plan to enter into an agreement with Coolbaugh to share the tax collector pending the election of a new tax collector in November.
Washenik addressed the council but Karen Struckle, who was in attendance, did not. During the regular meeting council voted unanimously to advertise the ordinance needed to allow the agreement with Coolbaugh. The Boro was denied a copy of the ordinance they voted to advertise.
ARGS Hired for IT Work
At the work session, Walker told the council that the IT issues were critical. He said they couldn’t even print checks because they are unable to hook the printer into the network.
He introduced Rodney Smith, founder of ARGS Technology, LLC in Stroudsburg. ARGS provides IT and computer network support and technology. Among its clients are the airport and Stroud Area Regional Police. During the regular meeting, the council approved hiring Smith’s company at the hourly rate of $95.
Council also approved Walker’s request to extend the current email subscription with GoDaddy for another three months to give them time to bring in a new system and migrate the old email over to it.
Confusion Over Parks & Rec
During the regular meeting the council authorized the advertisement of two open positions on the borough’s Parks & Recreation Committee. However, they were unable to identify which members of the committee were not returning.
Debra Fulton, a member of the committee, told the council that they had incorrect information about the terms of office of the committee. Williams said they would research the issue, but claimed she had an email saying that the terms end in January. The Boro was denied a copy of the email.
Council Appeals Court Loss
Council also approved an appeal from an adverse Right to Know Law decision by the Monroe County Court of Common Pleas in favor of this newspaper for records relating to a Facebook business page that Williams and Penn advertised as a vehicle for council to communicate with residents. The Office of Open Records ruled the page, never officially adopted by council, but which six of the seven members of council used for borough business, constituted a municipal record under the law.
The County Court, after taking evidence from the borough, agreed. Penn claimed that they would spend $3,500-4,000 in attorney fees, plus costs. The Boro was refused a copy of the solicitor’s fee proposal and estimate.
Williams noted that the meeting lasted two hours, thirty-six minutes, but “was supposed to be 90 minutes.”
The next meeting of council is Monday, February 1, at 6pm, via Zoom. Connection information is sometimes on the official website.