Written by Jim Lewis
A Lower Swatara Twp. man was charged on Tuesday, Dec. 9 with stealing at least five handguns, money and electronic devices from unlocked vehicles parked in several township neighborhoods in October and November, according to township police.
Kyler Michael Kohr, 18, of the 100 block of Lake Drive was charged with 12 counts of theft from a motor vehicle, five counts of carrying a firearm without a license, 12 counts of loitering or prowling at night, one count of criminal use of a communications facility, one count of recklessly endangering another person and one count of receiving stolen property, according to court records.
He was arraigned before District Judge Michael Smith and held in Dauphin County Prison on $150,000 bond, according to court records.
The firearms that police say he took have not been recovered, police said. Police are still investigating.
Readers with more information are asked to call the Lower Swatara police and Det. Robert Appleby at 717-939-0463.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 09 December 2014 19:11
Written by Jim Lewis
Bad weather has forced the cancellation of Middletown's Community Tree Lighting Ceremony and arrival of Santa Claus by fire truck that was scheduled for Friday, Dec. 5 at the Swatara Ferry House Landing at South Union and Ann streets.
Santa will arrive by fire truck at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 13 instead, according to the Middletown Area Historical Society.
The Douglas fir that is decorated for Christmas will be lit without a formal ceremony.
Last Updated on Friday, 05 December 2014 19:54
Written by Eric Wise
The Londonderry Twp. supervisors voted unanimously to approve a 2015 budget with a tax increase, just the second tax hike in 18 years.
Homeowners will get a tax bill about five times higher than that in 2010 with the budget approved on Monday, Dec. 1.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 02 December 2014 21:05
Written by Eric Wise
The finance committee of the Steelton-Highspire School Board met privately on Monday, Nov. 24, and a reporter from the Press And Journal who attempted to attend the meeting was turned away.
Committee meetings are to be open to the public under Pennsylvania’s Sunshine Act, according to a media law expert.
“School board committees that render advice or take official action on matters of agency business (like finances) are considered agencies themselves and are subject to the Sunshine Act,” said Melissa Melewsky, media law counsel with the Pennsylvania News Media Association. “Many school districts (and other agencies) acknowledge this fact and hold public committee meetings.”
The Sunshine Act is a state law that requires government agencies to hold public meetings in which any member of the public may attend.
Any person may attend the meetings of the state Senate’s Games and Fisheries Committee, for example, or committees of school boards or the Dauphin County Board of Commissioners.
If someone is found guilty of violating the Sunshine Act, he or she may face fines up to $1,000 plus court costs, although few cases reach that point. In many cases, when a local agency violates the Sunshine Act, those who object to its illegal meetings are satisfied when the agency begins holding public meetings in compliance with the law.
Members of the Steelton-Highspire committee, led by board President Mary Carricato, appeared alarmed that a member of the public would attend the committee meeting. “This meeting is where we brainstorm,” Carricato said. “It’s not open to the public.”
Carricato said that the public could not be present considering “the stuff we are discussing.” She did not explain what board members would be discussing at the closed meeting.
Superintendent Ellen Castagneto disputed the Press And Journal’s assertion that committee meetings are public. Castagneto said the only “committee” meetings that are public are workshop meetings that the school board calls “committee meetings.” She insisted that “subcommittees” never hold public meetings.
The finance committee’s meeting was mentioned at a recent school board meeting. It was not listed on the school district Web site, and no public notice advertisement could be found online.
The Sunshine Act requires that agencies advertise their meetings in publications of general circulation so that members of the public are aware of the meetings and may attend to learn how tax money is spent.
Melewsky said committees must follow “the provisions requiring public notice and public meetings anytime a quorum of the committee deliberates agency business.”
Finances “are among the most public of topics because they are deciding how to spend tax dollars paid by residents and taxpayers,” Melewsky said. “The people who paid taxes and are affected by its distribution have the right to witness and participate in agency discussions about the topic,” she said.
Any time a quorum of a board or a committee is present and discusses issues related to the agency, the law considers this to be a “meeting,” regardless of whether members refer to it as a “work session” or some other name, Melewsky said.
“The Act applies to deliberation as well as official action meetings,” she said. “The Act does not limit public attendance and participation to the final vote-taking meeting. The public has the right to witness and participate in the formation of policy, including its genesis.”
The Sunshine Act allows for keeping the public out of certain meetings with special exceptions. Members of an agency are permitted to attend conferences in which the state government or another group provides educational instruction about their role as elected or appointed officials, so long as nothing specific to the members’ own board, council or committee’s business is discussed.
Closed sessions are also allowed for what the act calls “executive sessions.” Agencies are permitted secret meetings to discuss buying or selling real estate, negotiating a union contract, certain personnel matters (when a specific person’s employment is being discussed), and meeting with a lawyer to discuss an issue relating to a specific pending or active lawsuit.
While the Steelton-Highspire school board announced an executive session prior to its Nov. 10 board meeting, no one mentioned any special exception in regard to the finance committee meeting to be held on Nov. 24.
Carricato and Castagneto did not respond to requests for further comment.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 02 December 2014 20:42
Written by Dan Miller
Note to Middletown residents who thought a tax or electric rate hike for 2015 was off the table: Think again.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 02 December 2014 20:37