Mayor's Council Terminates Emergency Management Coordinators, then Declares Emergency in Borough
Updated: Apr 10, 2020
MOUNT POCONO (APR 7 2020) -- Moments before the Mount Pocono Borough Council declared a state of emergency due to the current public health crisis over the novel coronavirus pandemic, the borough mayor engineered the removal of the borough's two Emergency Management Coordinators ("EMC"), former borough council member Jeff Woehrle and former fire department chief Randy Altemose. Neither Woehrle nor Altemose were at the meeting, nor had they received advance notice.
Because Emergency Management Coordinators are appointed by the governor, the action may not have been legal or effective as there does not appear to be a provision in the applicable law authorizing a municipality to remove someone appointed by the governor. At last night's regular borough council meeting, the mayor presented the issue as a non-agenda item. He asserted that the borough EMC positions were vacant because the council did not appoint anyone to the posts in the January reorganization.
After the Borough Secretary and Solicitor informed the mayor that the EMC positions were not re-appointed yearly, the mayor asserted he did not believe the current EMCs were qualified to act. He explained neither the basis for the claim nor how it was he determined that not having known they were in the position.
The council acceded to the mayor's request and unanimously voted to replace the sitting borough EMCs. The new EMCs will be required to go through two levels of certification, and application will need to be made to the County EMC, who in turn will need to apply to the Governor for the appointment. Only after the Governor makes the appointment will they be able to serve. When Altemose was appointed a few years ago, the process took months. Woehrle has served as the borough's lead EMC for over nine years and was appointed by Governor Edward Rendell on January 3, 2011. The action of the mayor and his council may have left the borough without a functioning EMC during the height of the current health crisis, and may have created a legal issue since typically only the Governor may remove those whom he appoints. The mayor appeared to be unaware that the position was a gubernatorial appointment. The council then voted unanimously to adopt a declaration of emergency in the borough.