Commissioner revokes previous resignation

— The chairman of the Honesdale Civil Service Commission who resigned recently and walked out of a meeting has had a change of heart.

John Siejk sent a letter to the Honesdale Borough solicitor on Monday afternoon saying he was revoking his resignation.

On Tuesday morning, a special borough council meeting had been called to address the vacancy on the commission. But when the meeting opened, board president F.J. Monaghan read a letter from Siejk saying he had changed his mind.

The letter from Siejk said he was going to "revoke, rescind and withdraw" his resignation.

Siejk was not at the meeting but the other two members of the commission — Bill McAllister and Mike Augello — were present. Neither spoke during the meeting.

It was also learned that two other people had applied for the vacancy but they were not considered by the council.

All of this comes in the wake of a swirling controversy surrounding the selection of a new police chief in Honesdale.

Former FBI agent Rick Southerton was chosen by the council to replace former chief Joe LoBasso. But part of getting Southerton approved is having him go before the Civil Service Commission for an interview. The commission is then obligated to make a recommendation before the council.

But it's been two months since the council voted for Southerton and no such meeting has taken place.

In fact, it was at the Sept. 20 meeting when Siejk read a brief statement saying the scheduled meeting was not going to take place because it was not properly advertised.

He subsequently walked out of the meeting and then apparently went downstairs at borough hall and gave his letter of resignation letter to the borough secretary.

It was after that when the borough council called the special meeting for Monday, apparently to find a replacement for Siejk.

Monaghan on Monday, during the meeting, thanked Siejk for "reconsidering" his position on the commission.

Asked after the meeting if Siejk would remain chairman, Monaghan said that would be the case.

It is unclear why that is his position because a chairman is chosen from among the commissioners.

Monaghan was also asked when the commission might have a meeting.

"I don't know when they will meet," he said. "I haven't had any communication with them."

McAllister was asked after the meeting if a date had been set and he said nothing has been arranged.

"We will do so as we can," said McAllister.

In the meantime, Sgt. Ron Kominski remains acting chief of the Honesdale Police Department.

Honesdale Mayor Ed Langendoerfer pointed out that in Siejk's reconsideration letter, he talked about his "dedication and diligence" as a member of the commission.

"You saw him walk out of the last meeting," said the mayor. "I don't consider that dedication or diligence."

Langendoerfer said if Siejk "truly changed his heart," he commends him for that, however, he pointed out that Siejk was not present at the meeting to explain his sudden about face.

The mayor also said he believes it is Kominski who is getting the shaft. Kominski applied for the job of chief but was not hired.

"I commend Ron for serving in that position," said the mayor. "It takes a true professional to be able to work in those circumstances."

The mayor also said the entire episode smells of politics.

"It's time for the back room politics and personal agenda stuff to stop," said the mayor. "All of this is superseding the interests of the taxpayers."

Langedoerfer is also frustrated the situation has been allowed to go on so long, leaving Kominski, the police department and the taxpayers in limbo.

"How long is this going to go on?" said the mayor.

Another factor which is likely going to come into play is whether or not Southerton is qualified for the job as police chief.

The advertisement for the position which came from the borough specifically stated it was for the position of chief of police.

Southerton has said he is not Act 120 certified to be a police officer in Pennsylvania but said he would work toward getting that certification.

But according to the rules and regulations of the Civil Service Commission of the Borough of Honesdale, it is not even clear whether Southerton was eligible to apply for the position.

The regulations were adopted by the state legislature and went into effect July 16, 2012.

Under the provision entitled "Applications and examinations," it states the following:

"Applicants must have successfully completed the Municipal Police Officers' Education and Training requirements known as Act 120. The certificate of completion and grade sheet must be provided with the application."

That could not have been possible since Southerton is not Act 120 certified.

In the paragraph preceding this rule, it states it is for "positions on the Honesdale Borough police force."

All of this comes just a week before a court hearing stemming from a private complaint filed by Kominski against each individual member of the borough council.

That suit alleges the council violated the state's Sunshine Law by conducting an illegal executive session in which Kominski said he was the focus of discussion.

During that session, Magistrate Ted Mikulak requested and was granted the executive session. During that session, Mikulark and the mayor got into a disagreement because the mayor said the session should not be taking place.

Langendoerfer said that Kominski and the police department were the subject of the discussion.

Kominski said he was not given any notice about the session and later said he would have demanded it be conducted in public. State law does allow for anyone who is the subject of an executive session to be able to have it conducted in public.

The court hearings are scheduled for 10:30 a.m. next Tuesday (Oct. 8) in the court of Magistrate Bonnie Carney in Hawley. All seven members of the council have pleaded not guilty in the case.