HONESDALE — Two current and one former council member have filed a suit alleging the Jan. 15 appointment to fill a vacancy violated procedure.
The suit, filed by Councilman Robert Jennings, Juanita Pisano and Councilman James Brennan Feb. 14 against the Borough of Honesdale and Honesdale Borough Council, states the vote to appoint Travis Rivera to the vacant term did not follow protocol.
The filing comes after Jennings made a motion during the Feb. 12 regular meeting that moved “...to vacate the election of Travis Rivera to the Honesdale Borough Council on the grounds that the special meeting held on Jan. 15, 2018 for the purpose of voting for the replacement councilor was not conducted in accordance with procedural requirements set forth in Pennsylvania Consolidated Statues or Borough Code Book of Laws.”
The motion continued by stating that the votes cast for the first candidate, Pisano, ended in a three-three tie.
“Procedural requirements applicable to this situation mandates that the matter should have been tabled to a second special meeting to be held within the time frame specified and a re-vote for the candidate be held,” Jennings said.
He continued by stating, “If a tie still exists then procedure requires that the mayor must cast the vote at that time.
“This process was obviously not followed in this case,” Jennings stated.
In conclusion, Jennings' motion said council decided “...to hold a vote for the second candidate without preserving the rights of Juanita Pisano to be reconsidered for the council position at a follow-up special meeting by law.”
Jennings moved to vacate the election of Rivera and to set a special meeting “...to hold a re-vote for Juanita Pisano in accordance with the above.”
The motion was seconded by Brennan. Brennan and Jennings voted for the motion; President Michael Augello, Bill Canfield, Travis Rivera, Tim Lauffenburger, and Jim Jennings voted against.
During the Jan. 15 special meeting, held to vote “...for the appointment of a member of Honesdale Borough Council to fill a vacancy...” three candidates – Travis Rivera, Juanita Pisano, and Jared Newbon – applied for the position.
The suit states Pisano was the first candidate to be nominated, and was nominated by Brennan with Jennings providing a second.
The suit states Mayor Sarah Canfield was present at the Jan. 15 meeting, and “...was not allowed to or asked to break the tie vote with respect to the appointment of Plaintiff Pisano to fill the vacancy on Honesdale Borough Council.”
Court documents continue to state: “Had Mayor Canfield been allowed to cast a vote, it is believed that she would have voted in favor of appointing Plaintiff Pisano to fill the vacancy on Honesdale Borough Council, which would have resulted in Plaintiff Pisano's appointment to Honesdale Borough Council.”
At the Jan. 22 meeting, Brennan “...brought to the attention of Honesdale Borough Council his position that Mr. Rivera was improperly appointed to fill the vacancy....because Mayor Canfield was never consulted to break the tie vote,” the suit states.
In an interview Tuesday, borough solicitor Attorney Richard Henry said the vote “...is the democratic process played out.”
He added that the borough “...followed the process specifically – they allowed each of the three candidates to speak and then it came down to the vote.
“...Pisano – as great a councilwoman as she was – didn't receive the majority vote.”
The filing seeks a court order voiding Rivera's appointment, an order directing council “...hold a special meeting for the purpose of asking the mayor to break the tie vote on Plaintiff Pisano's nomination...”
The suit also seeks payment for attorney's fees and costs of the suit for the plaintiffs.