Mayor trades barbs with council president
TROY - The borough mayor and the council president had a spirited exchange at Tuesday's borough council meeting.
Troy Mayor Mike Powers, who remains concerned about the temporary part-time police officer line item freeze, again criticized council during his report. Following his remarks, he was applauded by the 13 or so people attending the meeting.
Council president Jason Hodlofski, meanwhile, had a sharp response to the mayor.
As he began his remarks, Powers said, "There's just no teamwork here. I don't understand it."
Powers also expressed frustration with the borough's handling of questions from the public. They're processed through the borough manager's office rather than provided directly at the meeting, though there were a few times during Tuesday's meeting in which the borough manager addressed comments during the meeting. In addition to providing the residents a follow-up response, the answers to the residents' questions are read at the following meeting by the borough manager.
"I've never been to a council meeting, and we have to sit there, and no response," Powers said.
"It's ridiculous. How can you have a town meeting if you don't have a town meeting?"
"We've got to live with it because somebody mandated it that way, and that's ridiculous, absolutely ridiculous."
Powers said he talked to residents who don't know who is on council, and he asked council president Jason Hodlofski to read off the memberships of the various council committees, which Hodlofski did. Hodlofski and borough manager Dan Close also explained the general government committee's purpose, at Powers' request.
"Who's running the show here?" Powers said. He also complained that "nothing's getting done" and council was putting out "rhetoric."
Returning to the freeze, Powers stated, "The thing is, is that we need more police protection."
He said he was pleading council to get an additional police officer or to reinstate the part-time officer.
Council is supposed to revisit the freeze in June, and The Daily Review has sought information on whether the matter will initially be discussed in a committee meeting and whether that meeting will be open to the public.
In an email, Close noted that council's Committee for the Protection of Persons and Property will meet to review and then make a recommendation to council, probably in the June meeting. In responding to The Daily Review's inquiry, Close said that "the committee meetings are not open to the public and are not required to be under the 'Sunshine' law. There is not a quorum and they cannot take official action."
Then, in a later email, he stated that "no meeting" has been scheduled and no decision has been made as to whether it will be closed or open. He also said that the "council president is considering just doing it in a regular meeting."
When asked for comment by The Daily Review, Melissa Melewsky, Media Law Counsel for the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association (PNA), was asked by the Review to comment on Close's remarks and she stated, "If the committee renders advice, it is subject to the (Sunshine) act and if there is a quorum of the committee present, the discussion must happen at a public meeting even if a quorum of the larger board isn't present and even if the committee doesn't take official action." She continued, "The committee is an agency in itself. I disagree with their interpretation of the Sunshine Act; the definition of agency is clear and includes committees."
At Tuesday's meeting, Powers said, "I just hope that this council, with our two new members, start to make a change and start to serve the public."
After reading off the memberships of the committees, Hodlofski then responded to Powers' criticism.
"All the meetings that we've had, and you're saying we have not responded to anything for the police department, when you don't come to the meetings that we schedule? We've put offers out there on the table for our part-timer; we have no response."
He said that Powers' assertion that the council members "sit in this public meeting" and don't respond is "false."
Hodlofski said most of the "negative publicity" regarding the borough is a result of the comments of the mayor, who Hodlofski said is "painting a bad picture of this town."
Hodlofski said business people are tired of hearing about it.
Powers asked Hodlofski to back up his claims. "Can you name some business people?" he asked.
"If you're going to accuse me of something, back it up," Powers said.
Hodlofski answered, "I can back it up; I'm not going to do it right here."
Powers continued to press him, and Hodlofski, speaking louder, then stated, "because I'm not going to. It's my option to not do it."
Some people in the audience then began also demanding that the information be provided, until order was restored.
"All this negativity you talk about does not come from this table, it does not come from the council," Hodlofski told Powers. "So, the fact that it's out there is not from us."
"We're trying to conduct the business of the town, I think it's gone very well. Over the past couple years, we've repaired and taken care of issues in this town quite extensively. So, I'm not sure the spin you're putting on this."
Powers said the so-called "negative publicity" wasn't negative, but rather merely factual.
Joe Mignano, who owns Vinnie's Pizza in downtown Troy, attended the meeting and was concerned about an issue he has been dealing with for some time, that of a drainage problem on the sidewalk outside his restaurant. Mignano is trying to get the matter resolved with the borough. He has been at odds with the borough manager about it.
"I said, 'Danny, this sidewalk is too wide,'" Mignano said. "He told me, 'oh no, no, no, it's not too wide.'"
Hodlofski told him, "we've been in talks, Joe, through the lawyers because, you know what, we're not qualified for those legal documents, so that has to go through them."
"It should have never been," Mignano responded.
"But it is, we're taking care of it," Hodlofski said. "It's underway and we're taking care of it." Mignano was concerned about the amount of time that has gone by while the issue remains unresolved.
Powers supported Mignano, saying Mignano wasn't getting cooperation from council. He said he didn't want to see Mignano's business leave the borough.
Returning to the police issue, Close, who sits beside Hodlofski at the council table, then spoke very softly to Hodlofski, reminding him about efforts he said that the borough has undertaken.
"We've made part-time offers to bring our part-timer (police officer) back, and we have no response, so the inactivity is not on this council," Hodlofski said, following Close's reminder to him.
"In due respect, Mr. President, where are you getting your information from, who is feeding you this stuff?" Powers said, disputing his account.
Hodlofski then responded, "we offered for him to come back at least 16 hours right now, plus the Aggressive Driving hours, and we have not heard anything." Hodlofski said that this wasn't council's fault.
The part-time police officer, Michael Northup, who attended the meeting, then told Hodlofski, "I was never asked that, Jason."
At the meeting, Close told Powers, "it was offered to Mike and Kyle in the team management meeting two months ago. They never brought it to you - that's not our fault. And they never came to the last team management meeting."
When asked for comment following the meeting, Police Chief Kyle Wisel said he did, in fact, submit an affirmative response on May 8 to Hodlofski about the offer. Wisel was not present at the meeting Tuesday due to illness.
"It was just a proposed schedule for the use of the part-time officer for 16 hours," Wisel said. He said the proposed work schedule showed an example of the part-timer working 16 hours a week.
"I was waiting for approval for council to do that," Wisel said.
"Perhaps there was a miscommunication," he added, noting he has been sick all week.
At Tuesday's session, Powers said he forgot about the meeting that was mentioned, and wasn't reminded about it.
"Why make a mountain out of a molehill here? There's other people that have memos emailed to them continuously, about this meeting coming up, that meeting coming up," Powers said, noting he has "8,000 other things" going on. He said a reminder would have been nice. And he noted that the police chief hasn't been feeling well lately. He asked why council couldn't just reschedule the meeting.
"I had it scheduled and I have things to do," Hodlofski told Powers. "It was scheduled."
Council member Mike Davison rebuked Powers, stating, "Mike, you just said it's once a month. We're putting more time than that into it trying to get things in order, and you don't show up to them."
Amy Wisel, wife of the police chief, then said, "so basically what they're asking is for the chief to ignore what's going on in the borough to attend meetings. How can he come if he's busy dealing with calls?" Hodlofski denied this.
"Did you ever think, maybe he's busy working on a call?" she said.
Speaking sharply, Close told Powers that the mayor and the police department "need to start cooperating with the council that's paying the bill for the police protection in this town."
Amy Wisel told Close that he was making it sound like that if the mayor and police weren't cooperating, they "aren't getting money."
"I'm saying that they need to cooperate with the people that are paying the bill," Close said.
Also, Hodlofski spoke about an effort regarding the 911 dispatch, so that "our calls can be weeded out before our officers have to deal with dog calls and things like that, that they do not have to respond to right away." He said there was no decision on this yet.
"This stuff where we're getting railroaded in these meetings is wrong, we're doing our jobs," Hodlofski said. "And everybody sitting at this table has this town at heart, or we wouldn't be volunteering for this, what we go through here, everyone at this table."