City Council

Bethlehem Council MInutes

Special City Council Meeting
Monday, February 27, 2012 – 6:50 PM
(Upon Adjournment of the Human Resources and Environment Committee Meeting)
Town Hall - Bethlehem PA


President Evans called the meeting to order. Present were Jean Belinski, Karen Dolan, Robert J. Donchez, Michael D. Recchiuti, J. William Reynolds, and Eric R. Evans, 6.

President Evans confirmed that the February 27, 2012 Special City Council Meeting is an adjourned meeting from the February 21, 2012 Special City Council Meeting on Filling the Vacancy of Controller. The Members of Council voted to continue the Special City Council Meeting to today, Monday, February 27, 2012 upon adjournment of the Human Resources and Environment Committee Meeting. The February 16, 2012 Special City Council Meeting ended at Agenda Item 6 – Election – Roll Call on Nominees. The results were as follows: A Roll Call vote on Nominees David DiGiacinto, William Scheirer, and George Yasso was taken 2 times. Each of the 2 times, the results of the votes were 2 votes for Mr. DiGiacinto, 2 votes for Mr. Scheirer, and 2 votes for Mr. Yasso.

President Evans stated that the Meeting will begin this evening with Public Comment, move into the Election, and if the Members are able to gather 4 votes for any nominee, they will then win the Election. City Council will then move to vote on the Resolution, and the Meeting will conclude with Public Comment.


Al Bernotas, 1004 Johnston Drive, remarked that at the last Meeting he heard some comments that were complimentary and some that were disparaging. He said there are six candidates and three of them are highly qualified and the three others are qualified. Mr. Bernotas thought that City Council should just pick the best candidate and it is as simple as that. He stated one thing he saw was transparency in Government because the votes from last week tell more about the people sitting behind the Council desk than it talks about the candidates. Mr. Bernotas commented there were four votes last week that told him that folks on Council did vote for one of the three best candidates. Those four people were Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Evans and Mr. Donchez. While expressing he understands loyalty, Mr. Bernotas observed that Council is voting for someone who will be an overseer of the finances of the City. Mr. Bernotas thought the City needs to have a watchdog in the Controller’s position. He saw four people on Council going that way and he hoped they stick to their guns tonight. Mr. Bernotas pointed out that the strongest candidate in his opinion is Robert Pfenning, he is a CPA with an MBA and he has much experience. Mr. Bernotas expressed his opinion that the trouble with Mr. Pfenning is that he has a sharp tongue and he can upset people. Mr. Bernotas said the next candidate is David DiGiacinto and he is a West Point graduate and there is an argument over his candidacy. Mr. Bernotas pointed out that Mr. Scheirer is a Princeton graduate which is impressive so he wondered what Council is thinking. Mr. Bernotas added that Mr. Donchez stated that Council should do everything in its power to appoint a Controller before going to Court. Mr. Bernotas said he would like Council to do everything in its power to appoint a competent Controller before going to Court. Mr. Bernotas asserted the implication with what Mr. Donchez stated is that any candidate would be better than no candidate and Mr. Bernotas thought that is wrong.

Dana Grubb, 2420 Henderson Place, commented that as a former City official he was privileged to serve the residents in his home town as his father did before him. Other members of his family have done the same in Bethlehem and elsewhere. In that time, Mr. Grubb related that he got to know the many fine people who served on City Council, including Walt Dealtrey, Ray Dietz, Paul Calvo, Dolores Caskey, Frank Muhr, Gordon Mower, Mike Loupos, Jack Lawrence and Jim Delgrosso just to name a few. They conducted the business of Bethlehem in a professional manner. They were Republicans and Democrats and faced their share of difficult decisions and sometimes contentious debates. Mr. Grubb said it is because of those positive associations and experiences that he has become a little disturbed and saddened by the tone that this election process has taken in the efforts to appoint a replacement Controller. Mr. Grubb pointed out that what has bothered him most is the attack questioning that has been made on people who are known for their integrity and civic involvement. Apparently because they are regular public Council Meeting attendees and dare to speak in opposition to initiatives and actions taken either by the Administration, Council or both he cannot believe that they have been taken to task for doing what each of us as Americans should be doing. Mr. Grubb witnessed Members of Council challenge only certain candidates by questioning their actual constitutional rights to appear here in Town Hall to express themselves under the rights of individual expression, or be challenged in involving themselves in the political process no matter their views. Mr. Grubb believed that Council as elected officials all have similar views about the democracy in which we live but that they swore to uphold that Constitution when they took office. Mr. Grubb was disappointed and stressed he would never imagine that an elected official in America, let alone in Bethlehem, would violate that fundamental right in order to further a personal agenda. He said it is unthinkable but it has happened before our eyes. Mr. Grubb urged Council to put aside pettiness and vindictiveness and to please complete this process in the best interest of our City, not their own.


President Evans stated that the Meeting will now move to Agenda Item 3, the Election. He affirmed that the Election for City Controller shall be by Roll Call Vote. President Evans related that questions were entertained by Council Members as necessary. First, Members had the ability to ask questions, 19 were generated and sent to the candidates, and were responded to in writing by each of the candidates. Members of Council asked follow up questions on at the Special City Council Meetings on February 16 and February 21. President Evans, while expressing the belief that part of the process has been exhausted, stated he is willing to let Members of Council ask questions if they wish.

President Evans mentioned that he did reach out to a number of Members of Council to get a feel for the pulse of what they were thinking. He asked them to spend some time thinking about the implications involved, including the Court process. President Evans confirmed that in no way did he attempt to lobby anyone in any way towards one Candidate or the other. President Evans affirmed there are 4 nominees, 6 Council Members to vote, and it will take 4 votes to win the Election and move to the Resolution. If not, the Court would need to step in if Council is unable to come to a conclusion.

Vote on Nominees-First Ballot

Voting for Mr. DiGiacinto: Mrs. Belinski and Mr. Donchez, 2.

Voting for Mr. Scheirer: Ms. Dolan and Mr. Evans, 2.

Voting for Mr. Yasso: Mr. Recchiuti and Mr. Reynolds, 2.

Ms. Dolan asked Attorney Spadoni if everyone is comfortable and feel as if they voted for who they think is the best candidate and this goes to the Court whether the Court could choose from perhaps the nominated candidates, or people who applied, or reach out outside and choose their own. Attorney Spadoni affirmed that is correct. Ms. Dolan asked if this can be any Judges in the Northampton County Court of Pleas. Attorney Spadoni conveyed that he had a brief discussion with Mr. Onembo who is the Court Administrator, and there was the discussion that they may appoint a panel of Judges. He did not indicate that they would do this but this is something they might consider.

Ms. Dolan asked if there was any indication of what sort of materials are required for due diligence. Attorney Spadoni replied no and that this was just a heads up from his office to the Court that this may occur.

Ms. Dolan mentioned that she also spent time looking at this, and one of the things that became obvious to her is that it will take two people to move for Council to reach a quorum. So two people would have to change their minds and those two people would have to be for the same person. She observed that is a bit of a leap. Ms. Dolan also shared with some people that there are some who are not electable from this Council in terms of their second choices. Finally, she said it needs to be asked what the main objective is if the Courts choose who they feel is the best qualified, and she would imagine that this would be a good place to start. Ms. Dolan felt that going to Court she does not have that much to lose because she decided that the people on paper are the top candidates.

Vote on Nominees-Second Ballot

Voting for Mr. DiGiacinto: Mrs. Belinski and Mr. Donchez, 2.

Voting for Mr. Scheirer: Ms. Dolan and Mr. Evans, 2.

Voting for Mr. Yasso: Mr. Recchiuti and Mr. Reynolds, 2.

President Evans stated it is clear to him that this will not move despite the time allowed and the discussions that have taken place, since Members of Council are still in the same place. President Evans observed that each of the Members has strong convictions for their candidate that they feel should take the position of Controller.

President Evans asked if there is a consensus that this is the direction to head into or do the Members need to continue with another Roll Call.

Mrs. Belinski commented she does not think that anyone will change their minds.

Mr. Reynolds asked with the conversations that President Evans had with Council Members did he get any sense of their second choice. Mr. Reynolds noted that he did not speak with President Evans, and that Council would not like this matter to go to the Court but people will not give in, but he still wondered if President Evans got a sense that any Council Member is willing to move.

President Evans replied no he does not see that happening from the discussions he had. Highlighting the fact that Council has issues all the time in front of them, President Evans pointed out that typically with the 7 Members of Council there is a yes or no vote. President Evans denoted in this case it is a different scenario, because there are only 6 Members of Council voting on filling the vacancy of Controller. President Evans said he wants the candidates to know that he wishes Council could solve this. President Evans stressed he also wanted to be careful not to lobby any Council Member into any position. President Evans advised he is not angry but just frustrated that Council is not able to move to a solution.

Ms. Dolan stated that since this debate has started she also had conversations with Council Members, and she thinks there are four people on Council who had expressed comfort with at least one if not two of the candidates. She thought that as Council has gotten closer to tonight she has seen rigidity setting in. Ms. Dolan observed there were Members of Council who were set on not going to the Courts and from those Council Members there was more flexibility but those Council Members now have decided that it is fine to send this to the Courts. Ms. Dolan said she is not comfortable with this, and she is one who is flexible. Ms. Dolan commented she has at least a second vote that she would make. Ms. Dolan explained she came into this Meeting thinking that at least there would be one other person willing to entertain that and then both of those people let her know that they no longer are willing to do this. Ms. Dolan wondered if Council Members really want to turn this over to a Judge or a panel of Judges, and is it really impossible for Council to compromise. She thought that this has to do with people not wanting to be the one to appear soft, or there is the concept of a lack of faith, so it is better not to have an embarrassing vote and just turn it over to another panel that can make this decision. Ms. Dolan stated they will not have the knowledge that Council does. Ms. Dolan noted that with the next Roll Call if there is movement, even if it is not a solid vote, that is worthwhile.

Vote on Nominees-Third Ballot

Voting for Mr. DiGiacinto: Mrs. Belinski and Mr. Donchez, 2.

Voting for Mr. Scheirer: Ms. Dolan and Mr. Evans, 2.

Voting for Mr. Yasso: Mr. Recchiuti and Mr. Reynolds, 2.

Motion – Sending the Filling of Vacancy of the Controller to Court

Ms. Dolan moved to send the Filling of the Vacancy of the Controller to the Northampton County Courts. Mrs. Belinski seconded the motion.

Mr. Recchiuti asked if it is required that Council vote on a motion to send this to the Courts. Attorney Spadoni, stating he was hoping that the motion would be entertained and approved, explained that on the petition of 10 or more qualified electors he was hoping that could be generated from City Council and he could obtain the other signatures and present that to the Court.

Mr. Reynolds restated that 10 signatures are needed to send this matter to the Courts. Attorney Spadoni mentioned it would be his expectation to have the 6 Members of Council sign and obtain 10 or 15 more just to make certain there are the 10 signatures required. Attorney Spadoni indicated that he had a brief discussion with John F. Spirk, Jr., Esq., City Solicitor, and anticipating this to some degree he may participate as a co-counsel in this presentation to the Court. Ms. Dolan asked how this would happen as opposed to Attorney Spadoni. Attorney Spadoni related that it would be a petition generated by him and it would indicate that the petition of the electors is attached as Exhibit A and that it is presented by Attorney Spirk and himself.

President Evans, affirmed he was hoping it would not go in this direction, said he did poll Council to see how they felt and while there was some concern the belief was that this is what needs to happen at this point to bring this matter to a resolution. There were some reservations and it was unanimous that Council wanted to avoid this, but it was clear that people saw this as the next step in the process.

President Evans asked the Clerk to call the roll on the motion to send the Filling of the City Controller Vacancy to the Court of Northampton County.

Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Recchiuti, Mr. Evans, 5. Voting NAY: Mr. Reynolds, 1. The motion passed.


None. See Agenda Item 3.


Tony Simao, 1135 E. Third Street, thanked Council for doing the right thing and actually sending the matter to the Courts. He remarked that sitting in the audience and being called the shadow council, and having it aired that it was actually noticed who put his name on their lawn and that impacted Council that greatly that this qualified person would be dismissed seems amazing. Mr. Simao stressed this process became so politicized that it was not just who was supporting the Republicans during a City Council race it was also bloggers from New York writing hatchet pieces against Council Members saying they are not Democratic enough. Mr. Simao considered this ridiculous so he is happy that this is going to the Courts. Mr. Simao said the Courts will actually look at this without bias and look at the paper and not the background of what the person did and who they supported.

Al Bernotas, 1004 Johnston Drive, thanked Council and noted that the last time they voted last week there were 4 people who voted for the top Candidates. He observed they stuck by their guns and should be congratulated. He added that tonight 5 people voted for what they thought was the right thing to do and to send this to the Courts.

Dana Grubb, 2420 Henderson Place, remarked that Council has ventured into territory that he has never seen in Bethlehem. He asked if this will be for the 6 Candidates who applied for the position who will be submitted, or is it the names of the 4 who were nominated who would be submitted, or is it open by the Court and advertised so other Candidates can submit. He wondered how this process works so the residents of the City understand what is being transitioned into for them.

Attorney Spadoni stated that it is his expectation to file a petition which is reflective of Council’s Meetings with the action taken and the documents submitted. Attorney Spadoni affirmed the Court is a judicial body that is governed by their rules and what they look at. He continued on to say if they have an interview process, and whether they have other evaluations that is for the Court to decide. Attorney Spadoni advised it would be presumptuous for anyone to state what they would do or what they would not do.

The meeting was adjourned at 7:25 pm.