Mayor says executive session was inappropriate

— A civil dispute between a landlord and tenant is seemingly morphing into a larger story involving a local judge and the mayor of Honesdale.

"My hands are tied," said Sgt. Ron Kominski, officer in charge of the Honesdale Borough Police Department.

The dispute involves Steven Rose, who is the landlord of a property located at 359 Riverside Drive in Honesdale.

Rose and his girlfriend, Maria Weber, say the local police aren't doing anything about their situation. They also said that Magistrate Ted Mikulak told them the matter should be handled by police.

It was Mikulak who heard the original case filed by Rose. They claimed the woman living in their residence was not paying the rent and needed to be evicted.

The judge agreed and issued an order of eviction.

But that's where the case gets muddled.

Rose claims the woman living in the residence did leave but her boyfriend remains at the place. Rose and Weber claim the man is trespassing and want the police to remove him from the residence.

Kominski said he met with the couple on Monday, Aug. 5, the day they got the order of eviction. He says the landlord-tenant laws in Pennsylvania state that once an eviction notice is given, the person has 10 days to vacate the premises.

But Rose says only the woman's name was on the lease and she left.

Kominski, though, says when he first looked at the lease it stated there were three people living at the residence. It named only the woman on the lease.

Kominski said the three people likely were the woman, her son and the boyfriend. He said when he saw the lease documents a second time, it had only two people listed.

Kominski says if the lease showed three people, he assumes the landlord knew three people were living in the residence. That, he says, ties his hands because despite the fact the woman whose name was on the lease had vacated, another of the three tenants originally listed was still occupying the residence.

"All I wanted was him out," said Rose.

Kominski said he understands Rose's situation, and sympathizes with the problem, but he has to follow the law.

Kominski said he even contacted Magistrate Ron Edwards "for clarification" of the landlord-tenant laws.

The magistrate told him it was his opinion the man had until Aug. 15 to vacate the premises.

Kominski also pointed out that state law makes it clear that landlord/tenant disputes are civil matters which are handled by magistrates and constables.

"I've been with this department 13 years and I've never served an eviction notice," he said. "My hands are tied."

"The borough cops don't do anything," said Weber.

But Kominski said he met personally with the couple on the day the order was issued and also said he went to the residence on Tuesday of this week to check into the matter.

Rose and Weber also claimed the police told them, in front of her 11-year-old son, that Mikulak was a bad judge and didn't know what he was talking about when he told them he thought it was a police matter.

"They said the judge told them it was trespassing (by the tenant)," said Kominski. "I said it was not."

He also said he never spoke directly with the boy.

The bigger picture

All of this comes on the heels of an executive session which was held on Monday night by members of the borough council.

At that executive session, Mikulak was behind closed doors with the council members.

The next day, Mikulak came to the office of The Wayne Independent and said he had discussed this disputed case with members of the council.

Mayor Ed Langendoerfer says he has a problem with how that happened.

"It was completely inappropriate for a district judge to come into the executive session," said Langendoerfer. "The complaint had no basis or value."

Langendoerfer also said he was angered by the fact the request for the executive session came in the form of a letter delivered to council president F.J. Monaghan but to nobody else.

"I never saw the letter and I didn't know about it until it happened," said the mayor. "If people have complaints, we don't have them in executive session."

Borough council member Bob Jennings, chairman of the safety committee, concurred with Langendoerfer.

"I was not aware of it," said Jennings. "I had no idea."

Jennings said Monaghan read the letter but did not give copies to any members of the council.

"I still don't have a copy of it," said Jennings.

The mayor said he objected to the executive session, saying if Mikulak had a complaint against Kominski and the police department, it should have been addressed appropriately.

He said that should have either been done in open council session or with the council president, mayor and Kominski.

Another method is by giving the complaint to the council president, mayor and safety committee chairman, who could then discuss it in closed session but without the complainant present.

Langendoerfer, as mayor, acts as the liaison between the council and police department.

"Not only was this about Ron, it was about the whole police department," said Langendoerfer. "I say that is completely wrong."

The mayor said Kominski has been a "model" police officer, adding, "he's been great."

The matter does come on the heels of the resignation of former chief Joe LoBasso, who gave two weeks notice before taking a job with the Wayne Highlands School District.

Following an executive session at a recent special meeting of the council, Kominski was appointed as "officer in charge," and now the council has received nine applications for chief.

"The picture that it is painting is that he (Mikulak) doesn't want Ron to be police chief," said Langendoerfer.

And, he said, that's why it was inappropriate to have the executive session.

"He had the opportunity to complain to the entire council about Ron Kominski," said the mayor.