HONESDALE — Several members of the public spoke out at the Honesdale Borough Council meeting Monday night against recent litigation filed by Councilors Robert Jennings and Jim Brennan and citizen Juanita Pisano against Honesdale Borough and the Borough Council.
Filed on February 14, the suit alleges council's vote to appoint Councilor Travis Rivera to a vacant seat was not done according to protocol.
The suit alleges that during the voting for appointment on January 15, Juanita Pisano's three-three split should have been resolved by a tie-breaking vote from Mayor Sarah Canfield before council voted on the next candidate, Travis Rivera.
Borough Solicitor Rich Henry stated during a previous public meeting that council followed protocol by allowing each applicant to speak then voting until a majority vote for one applicant was awarded.
At Monday's meeting, Honesdale citizen Derek Williams stated during public comment that, “The claimed rules violation feels a lot more like a personal gripe over a council appointment and that's sad.”
Williams elaborated on the expense of lawsuits and the burden that places on residents and taxpayers in the borough.
“These lawsuits cost money and that money is ours. It's part of our community-owned pool of resources and those resources can be put to better use.”
Williams continued by stating instead of filing lawsuits against itself, the borough should revise more dubious sections of its code.
“To think that a simple majority determines a post when candidates further down the list could receive a supermajority is kinda crazy...Every nominee for a vacant position should be voted on, and maybe a second vote should be taken if there's a tie with the top vote getters.
“After that, the mayor can break any ties.”
A couple of weeks ago, Williams had initiated a petition to withdraw the litigation capped at 10,000,000 signatures.
He announced it had accrued 100 by Monday night.
Three other citizens raised their voices in similar criticism.
Ray Holm, a newer citizen seeking to grow roots in the community stated, “When I see the council acting in this way with frivolous lawsuits it makes me question how I want to be a part of this community and in what way I could affect good stuff there.
“And I just have to ask if this is sound management?”
Carolyn Lorent noted such actions embarrass her as a citizen when she travels to surrounding communities.
“It has to stop or it's wasting money.”
David Harvey attested to the Rivera's character, noting the councilor's accomplishments and dedication to the community.
Harvey encouraged the more experienced council members to work with the newcomers and share their knowledge rather than stand as diametric opponents.
During the public's presentations, Rivera also addressed the lawsuit, calling it “bizarre” and “confusing.”
He noted this suit is the borough's eighth pending lawsuit.
“We are on the brink of being uninsured as a town,” he said.
“That is catastrophic. If we continue to sue each other, not only are we wasting resources, we're actually putting our people, our community at risk.”
He read into the minutes an email sent to him and Police Chief Rick Southerton on February 26 by Councilor R. Jennings in his capacity as Safety Chair.
The email inquired as to Rivera's capacity as a business owner, his previous employment, his time spent in college and degrees thence awarded, and his time spent as a Honesdale resident.
The email also asked Rivera to contact Chief Southerton for “routine background information.”
Poltanis stated, Tuesday, background checks are not routine procedure for council members.
After reading the letter, Rivera stated, “I want it known that I have been advised to seek out litigation against you, Mr. Bob Jennings, for harassment and discrimination.”
He later said it is not his wish to do so at this time as it would further drain the borough of resources.
Immediately after Rivera read the email, Councilor Bill Canfield requested to be removed from his seat as Vice President on the Safety Committee as he had nothing to do with these requests nor wished to have anything to do with them henceforth.
Rivera asked R. Jennings, “why would you ask me these things?”
R. Jennings offered no comment at that time.
On Tuesday, R. Jennings issued a statement which states in part, “Because this matter is currently in litigation, it would be improper for me to comment on it at this time.
“However, the complaint that was filed challenging Mr. Rivera's appointment is a matter of public record and can be viewed by anyone at any time.
“We have set forth our legal position on the matter with documentation and exhibits for all to see.
“We look forward to a prompt resolution on the matter by the Wayne County Court.”
The matter of the litigation arose once more when Councilor Brennan, who arrived after the public comment portion, moved to amend the meeting minutes from January 22 to include his statements regarding the lawsuit.
His motion received no second and died on the floor.
He then read aloud his statements so as to include them in Monday's official account, reiterating his dissent with how the appointment was handled and the grounds for the litigation.
“It has nothing to do with your ability as a councilman,” said Brennan. “I just feel that the appointment was done incorrectly.”
Brennan further stated he feared if it was indeed done improperly, it could create future problems for the borough.