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Wayne Independent - Honesdale, PA
  • Borough to pay $6K for appeal

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  • Borough Council members voted to pay $6,161 to the law firm that represented them in the appeal of their Sunshine Act convictions.
    At their meeting Monday night, council members voted 5-0 to pay lawyer Ronald Bugaj of Bugaj/Fischer, Honesdale, then get reimbursed by their insurance carrier, EMC Insurance Co.
    Council member Robert Jennings, who made the motion, James Brennan, Juanita Pisano, Harry DeVrieze and Scott Smith voted in favor. Bill Canfield and Dan Barnes abstained, noting they were not involved in the criminal matter.
    A Pike County judge late last month dismissed summary charges against current and former council members who had been convicted of violating the Sunshine Act.
    Convicted were Jennings, Brennan, Smith, Pisano and DeVrieze, and former members F.J. Monaghan and Samuel Mikulak.
    District Judge Bonnie Carney convicted the council members in October 2013 after a private criminal complaint was filed by Honesdale's then police officer in charge, Ronald Kominski.
    Council members were fined $100 each.
    The council members will recoup that money, plus costs, by July 21.
    According to an itemized statement, Bugaj billed from Oct. 28, 2013, to June 16 of this year.
    The law firm charged $150 per hour, according to the statement.
    Council members said that, even though the fines for the convictions were much less than what the borough is paying for the appeal, they felt it necessary to clear their names.
    Brennan, in an interview, called the convictions "totally wrong." He said he has worked hard for the borough for little pay and the conviction was a mark against his reputation.
    Jennings agreed, saying a criminal conviction is a stigma that council members would not be able to shake.
    DeVrieze also said the borough has the insurance company to protect it against "frivolous accusations." He added that it was his understanding that if the appeal was denied the defendants would have to pay the legal fees out of pocket.
    Page 2 of 2 - If public servants aren't given proper protection against lawsuits and other accusations, few people would want to run for office, DeVrieze said, adding that public officials can be accused of "anything at anytime."
    In other business from Monday night's meeting, council voted 6-1 to eliminate the time clock for the Department of Public Works.
    Canfield said DPW workers are the only employees required to punch into a time clock and it isn't fair.
    Brennan cast the dissenting vote, saying he was told by the payroll clerk that it is easier for her to accurately account for DPW worker's overtime hours if they punch into a time clock.
    In a separate matter, Scott Smith said he is checking with companies to see if the borough and police department can update the phone system.
    The current phone system is antiquated, he said, and it would cost about $20,000 for the borough and police to have separate, more modern systems.
    Smith also said a former police cruiser, a 2008 Crown Victoria, has been sold in an electronic auction for $2,675.
    The high bidder has until the end of the week to make the payment.
    Other business from the meeting will be reported on in a following edition.

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