• Tom Ford, Editor

Hensel Can't Leave Soon Enough for Interim Mayor, Solicitor Tells Mayor to Step Back

Interim Mayor Michael C Penn, recently elected to serve out the remainder of Fred Courtright's term, works on prematurely ousting a council member, instead of the Borough's real problems.

The Borough's interim mayor had to be told a second time that his amateur interpretation of the law was wrong. In November, Council Member Matt Hensel submitted his resignation effective January 31, 2020. In announcing his decision, Hensel talked about some of the pressing issues facing the Borough, including the 2020 budget, personnel policy changes proposed by the majority, and other items.

At a public meeting in early December, the interim mayor asked the Borough solicitor if Hensel was permitted to post-date his resignation. Pointing to the plain language of the Borough Code, the solicitor told the interim mayor that of course that was appropriate. Here's what the Borough Code says about resignations from Borough offices:

(a.1)  Vacancy by resignation.--

(1)  A vacancy shall not be created by a resignation until the date that the resignation is accepted by a majority vote of a quorum of council at a public meeting or the effective date of the tendered resignation, whichever is later. A council must accept a resignation no later than 45 days after it has been tendered in writing to council, unless it is withdrawn in writing prior to acceptance. Apparently, neither the black letter of the statute, nor the opinion of the lawyer who has faithfully served as the Borough solicitor for over thirty years, was good enough for an unemployed copy editor from New York City who moved here a little over two years ago. Instead of devoting time to his work on the budget committee or police commission trying to figure out how to solve the Borough's biggest budget issue, the interim mayor devoted his efforts to pretermitting the "effective date of (Hensel's) tendered resignation". In a secret memo shared only with the council president, the interim mayor offered his legal opinion that "Matt is no longer a Council Member (as of December 9)". The interim mayor actually threatens that the Borough would face a lawsuit if the solicitor doesn't help him oust Hensel early!

As a result, the Borough Solicitor was forced to provide a written opinion painstakingly explaining what is obvious to anyone from the plain language of the law -- that "A vacancy (is) not () created by a resignation until the date that the resignation is accepted . . . or the effective date . . . whichever is later." Yesterday (December 16), the solicitor responded, again, to the interim mayor's ridiculous assertion that the law doesn't mean what it says. In correspondence copied to the entire Council (and the Borough Secretary as is customary, because she maintains the Borough's official records), the solicitor painstakingly parsed the statute so even the interim mayor could understand it, and copied the council on the original secret email. The operative portion of the solicitor's three page letter is below:

You can view the ENTIRE CORRESPONDENCE HERE. (The solicitor is entitled to charge the Borough extra for this additional research, opinion, and time. As of this date we don't know if he will or how much the interim mayor's folly has cost the Borough this time.) Really? THIS is what the interim mayor spends his time on? Mount Pocono has more important problems than this, but as long as the elected leaders think governing by spite is their main calling, the town will never right itself and achieve it's true potential. You deserve better, Mount Pocono!

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