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Editor's Voice: A legal fight that seems like a waste of our money

Posted 10/9/12

There were few fireworks at the most recent Middletown Borough Authority, despite the potential political clash set up by a Borough Council vote last month to replace the authority’s chairman.

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Editor's Voice: A legal fight that seems like a waste of our money

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Chairman Peter Pappas showed up, determined to keep his seat, despite attempts by councilors unhappy with negotiations over the potential refinancing of an authority bond issue to replace him. The person who council named to replace him, John Patten, a former councilor and head of the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, showed up, too, but politely declined to claim the seat in the face of opposition from Pappas and, apparently, three other members of the authority.

“Going forward, we are taking the position that Mr. Pappas continues to be a member of the authority, and we’re going to proceed with him in that chair,’’ announced Steve Dzuranin, the authority’s solicitor, at the authority’s Oct. 4 meeting.

The issue is far from over, however. A legal battle looms, if the banter between Dzuranin and Chris Courogen, borough secretary and director of communications for the borough, is any indication.

The question is whether Pappas, who was appointed by a previous majority on council during the lame-duck days of December, should have been appointed by council in January instead, when a new majority took control.

“I would be shocked if council does not aggressively pursue its rights in this matter,’’ said Courogen. “We can’t have rogue boards running around appointing themselves outside of the law.’’

Another legal issue is possibly whether four of the authority’s current members should have shown how they feel in the question in a public vote – or whether giving their opinion to Dzuranin outside a public meeting is a violation of the Sunshine Law.

Dzuranin said a public vote could be taken to “appease’’ Courogen. A public vote indeed would set the record straight in the public’s view.

But we see no need to legally fight Pappas’ membership. It would be a waste of taxpayers’ money during a time when council is trying to cut borough spending and reduce electric rates.

Council has gone from great acts of budget cutting – defunding the Middletown Public Library and closing the communications center – to the small step of saving $5,000 by eliminating the Planning Commission. If every cent counts, how can council justify the expense of challenging the authority’s position on Pappas in court?

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