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Wayne Independent - Honesdale, PA
  • Mikulak allowed to testify in Sunshine Case

  • Magisterial District Judge Ted Mikulak can testify in an upcoming appeal hearing for current and former Honesdale Borough Council members convicted of violating the Sunshine Act.
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    - Magisterial District Judge Ted Mikulak can testify in an upcoming appeal hearing for current and former Honesdale Borough Council members convicted of violating the Sunshine Act.
    The Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts, which oversees district courts, had sought to quash a subpoena compelling Mikulak to testify. The office also had sought a protective order shielding him from further subpoenas in the case.
    Specially presiding Judge Gregory H. Chelak of Pike County denied the state's requests and ruled that Mikulak can testify at council's summary appeal hearing at  9 a.m. May 28 in Pike County court.
    Chelak signed the order Monday but it wasn't filed in Wayne County court until 2:12 p.m. Wednesday.
    Mikulak wants to testify, according to lawyer Ronald Bugaj, who is representing the current and former council members found guilty of the summary offense.
    Bugaj has argued in court that, "Judge Mikulak's testimony is very critical and he is eager and willing to testify."
    Convicted in the case were current council members Robert Jennings, James Brennan, Scott Smith and Juanita Pisano, and former members F.J. Monaghan, Harry DeVrieze and Samuel Mikulak, the district judge's brother.
    Mikulak was subpoenaed Jan. 31 to testify in the case, which is related to an Aug. 12, 2013 letter in which he asked to be placed on that evening's borough council agenda for an executive session. Mikulak requested the session to address "belittling misrepresentations" made by the then police officer in charge Ronald Kominski, the letter states.
    Why quash the testimony?
    The Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts had argued that judges may not be compelled to testify about actions taken in relation to their judicial functions.
    Chelak disagreed, saying the state "has not established that (Mikulak's) participation in the August 12, 2013 executive session was related to his judicial duties."
    The order further states, "It is apparent that he appeared voluntarily at the subject meeting as a private citizen and even if we determine that Judge Mikulak was attempting to 'stop the belittling misrepresentations'  that a complainant was making about him in the furtherance of judicial duties, the proposed inquiry does not delve into his judicial deliberative process as a jurist."
    The Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts had also argued that requiring Mikulak to testify would disrupt the Wayne County district court system because he would not be in his office in the event he testifies.
    Chelak also shot down that argument.
    "In addition, the rescheduled summary appeal hearing date of May 28, 2014 at 9 a.m. provides ample time for Judge Mikulak's court schedule to be arranged so that he can comply with the subpoena to testify," the order states.
    Page 2 of 2 - The court did note that Mikulak may only testify as to statements or actions he made or observed directly related to his appearance at council's 2013 executive session.
    Inside the executive session
    During a recent court argument, Bugaj detailed what occurred at the executive session.
    Mikulak came to the meeting and handed a letter to Monaghan, the president at the time, requesting the session.
    Monaghan placed the envelope in his pocket and granted Mikulak the executive session. The letter was not read during the closed-door meeting.
    The only ones who spoke during the sometimes heated five- to 10-minute meeting were Mayor Ed Langendoerfer and Mikulak.
    Council was found guilty of violating the Sunshine Act in October 2013.
    Kominski was not made aware the executive session was going to take place, and argued that was a violation of the Sunshine Act. He also argued the session was not properly advertised.
    Mikulak wanted to speak in the closed-door session "in an effort to deter (Kominski) ... from making disparaging remarks about (Mikulak) in his capacity as a magistrate district judge," court papers say.
    Contacted Wednesday, Mikulak's wife said the judge could not comment on the order.
     
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