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Wayne Independent - Honesdale, PA
  • Integrity lost with move on solicitor issue

  • Jason Ohliger had a lot to say Monday night during the Honesdale Borough council meeting.
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  • Integrity lost
    with move on
    solicitor issue
     
    Jason Ohliger had a lot to say Monday night during the Honesdale Borough council meeting.
    And a lot of it was tough and direct.
    Ohliger came to the meeting to explain just how his name had made its way onto the borough agenda last month.
    As it turned out, Ohliger felt offended by what transpired. An attorney, he was asked by borough councilman Scott Smith early this year if he was interested in becoming the borough's solicitor.
    Trouble was, current solicitor Rich Henry was unaware he was leaving. In fact, he was not.
    It also turns out that it appears the majority of the council members didn't have a clue Ohliger had been asked, either.
    It all came to a head on Monday night when Ohliger showed up at the meeting and gave remarks during the public comment period.
    He did not mince words.
    Ohliger basically said he was duped into thinking there might be a spot for him with the borough. Ohliger said he would not consider the solicitor position unless Henry left. That was in January.
    Ohliger further stated that in April, he was again contacted by Smith about looking over some loan documents. Ohliger said he had no connection to the borough and no authority to look over the documents.
    During that same conversation, Ohliger said Smith asked him if he might be interested in being an "alternate" solicitor for the borough.
    The attorney said he was and sent Smith a letter and resume.
    Page 2 of 3 - But when the issue came up last month, it was for a "substitute" solicitor, which Ohliger said is a big difference.
    What he said it meant was that Smith was seeking someone to contact to render an opinion "when you don't like what your solicitor says."
    Ohliger said the proposal lacked "integrity."
    It's no coincidence that at the same time, the borough was working on the anchor building loan package. Borough council had voted it be a 20-year note. But when the official documents came back to solicitor Henry, it had been changed to 30 years. Those notes were hand written on the document, said Henry.
    Though nothing is certain, it certainly appears there was a movement afoot to change the loan documents by going around Henry and using another attorney.
    That is simply unethical and wreaks of bad government, if not illegal behavior.
    We're talking about official loan documents from the state of Pennsylvania and the money in question comes directly from the taxpayers of the state.
    You can't just change the documents on a whim without a lawyer's approval and, most importantly, approval of the entire council.
    This entire episode stinks to high heaven.
    For his part, Henry was outspoken at the meeting and said the public had been "lied to" and "betrayed."
    He went on to say he had respect for the council members with the exception of Smith, who he said "castigated" him on several occasions when it came to his positions on borough matters.
    At one point, Henry said some were angry at him because he "sided with" engineer Mary Bogart on the CVS controversy.
    Let's see, the borough solicitor agrees with the engineer hired by the borough and he gets taken to the woodshed.
    Page 3 of 3 - Henry should have further stated that the only reason he "sided" with those positions was because they were following the law.
    None of the seven members of the council are lawyers. They hire a lawyer to render legal opinions about various matters.
    If they don't agree with that opinion, that is fine. But you can't just go out and hire a lawyer because you want a different opinion.
    You can vote against your lawyer's wishes and face a lawsuit. It's not that uncommon.
    But to try to go behind the back of your lawyer and other members of the council should not be tolerated.
    There seems to be a real divide on the Honesdale council these days. That can be good in some cases because it sparks debate.
    But if that divide is for power play purposes and personal grudges, that is not acceptable.
    These shenanigans need to change.
    Now.
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