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SPECIAL MEETING OF BETHLEHEM CITY COUNCIL
10 East Church Street – Town Hall
Monday, February 23, 2015 - 8:00 PM
Reverend Laura Howell, of Trinity Episcopal Church, offered the invocation followed by the pledge to the flag.
PLEDGE TO THE FLAG
1. ROLL CALL.
President Reynolds called the Special City Council Meeting to order. The purpose of the Special City Council Meeting was to fill the vacancy of the Bethlehem City Controller, as a result of the death of David T. DiGiacinto. The individual appointed by City Council shall serve until a successor is elected and duly sworn into office on January 4, 2016.
Present were: Bryan G. Callahan, Eric R. Evans, Michael D. Recchiuti, Cathy Reuscher, Louis N. Stellato, Adam R. Waldron, and J. William Reynolds, 7.
President Reynolds remarked this is a sad day for Bethlehem. Every person here wishes that we were not here in this room tonight. He continued we talked at the last Council Meeting how highly everyone spoke and felt about Mr. DiGiacinto. He was a great friend to everyone involved with the City of Bethlehem. President Reynolds stated Mr. DiGiacinto was made to be the Controller of the City of Bethlehem. President Reynolds noted whoever is chosen tonight will have very large shoes to fill because Mr. DiGiacinto expressed a passion and a love for this City that all of us feel was unmatched.
President Reynolds stated that under Agenda Item 2, Public Comment, City Council will accept comments from the Public on the filling of the vacancy of the City Controller. Under Agenda Item 3, we will move onto Communications by which the Clerk will read the names of the individuals who submitted letters of interest. Under Agenda Item 4, Nominations, the President will ask Members of Council for nominations; no second is required. A Member of Council may nominate a qualified individual who is not on the list of candidates. At the end of Nominations, the President will ask if there are any further nominations; if not, the President will declare that the nominations are closed. The Clerk will read the names of the candidates who received nominations. Under Agenda Item 5, the President of Council will state that the Election will be by a roll call vote. The Clerk will call the roll and each Member of Council will vote for a nominee. Under Agenda Item 6, Resolution, Council will then vote on the Resolution with the name of the finalist.
2. PUBLIC COMMENT
The Clerk read a letter of interest attached to which is a resume from Mr. Glenn Wesley, 1949 Paul Avenue, Bethlehem, stating his interest in the Controller of the City of Bethlehem vacancy.
The Clerk read a letter of interest attached to which is a resume from Mr. George Yasso, 1413 West Market Street, Bethlehem, stating his interest in the Controller of the City of Bethlehem vacancy.
President Reynolds then turned to Council Solicitor John Spirk, Esq. to go through the process that Council has followed and what Council is required to follow as far as a vacancy is concerned.
Solicitor Spirk noted under the Third Class City Code, City Council has 30 days from the date of the creation of the vacancy to elect a Controller who will then serve from the date of election until January 4, 2016, at which time the electorate will have chosen in the 2015 election cycle, the person who will fill out the last two years of Mr. DiGiacinto’s term. Solicitor Spirk informed this is the 29th day of the 30 days that Council has to fill the vacancy. Council of course, as it has done in the past, has set up the process soliciting applications and setting various deadlines. Solicitor Spirk stated that is something Council chose to do and not anything required by law. Under the Third Class City Code, any person 21 years of age and older who has lived continuously in the City for a period of at least one year, and is knowledgeable in accounting is eligible to be the City Controller. Solicitor Spirk pointed out Council is free to vote for any person matching that description and meeting those qualifications, whether that person applied or met deadlines. Council certainly has an absolute right to honor the process it wishes and choose only people who followed that process, but Council is free to vote for any qualified person. Solicitor Spirk noted the same thing is true with nominations. Council does not have to limit, they can choose to follow the process, and limit their nominations for people who acted accordingly, but they can also nominate any eligible person as he has described.
President Reynolds stated he will open this up for discussion with Members of Council as far as anyone who wishes to discuss the two nominees we have and before we lead into nominations. He continued he wanted to give Council the opportunity to make any comments before we turn to the nominations.
Mr. Evans stated he wanted to thank Mr. Wesley and Mr. Yasso for entering letters of interest and offering their time and talents to the City of Bethlehem. Mr. Evans mentioned this will be a difficult position with a short time line to get up to speed. It is a position that is time intensive and begins immediately. Mr. Evans remarked the fort has been held for the past few weeks with Gene Auman, Deputy Controller, and the staff in the Controller’s Office. Mr. Evans noted from his perspective he would be comfortable with either of the applicants and interested to hear the viewpoints of other Council Members. Mr. Evans related Mr. Wesley’s qualifications are certainly impressive with the wealth of experience as well as Mr. Yasso’s. He stated, we looked at them both and made phone calls on both and all of the references were strong for each candidate. Mr. Evans noted we are blessed to have people like this who have these skills in the City of Bethlehem. Mr. Evans recognized Robert Pfenning who served as Controller a few years ago. He reflected on the vacancy matter and mentioned this happened once before when there was opening for the Controller seat, as well as a vacancy on City Council. Mr. Pfenning filled in for a few years when Meg Holland resigned for personal reasons and he did a nice job. However, he commented, based on these two individuals we do not need to look any further. Mr. Evans pointed out the last time we went through this situation, it was Mr. DiGiacinto who expressed interest in the position, which left us with six on Council to vote to fill the vacancy. It was an odd formation of a 2-2-2 vote and that is not the direction he hoped to go in this time. Mr. Evans added that Mr. Yasso was involved in that experience and was one of the individuals nominated that time in that scenario. Mr. Evans noted from where he sits he sees that Mr. Wesley is qualified as is Mr. Yasso.
Mr. Recchiuti stated he reviewed both resumes and noted their qualifications. Mr. Recchiuti pointed out he supported Mr. Yasso the last time he submitted his interest in the Controller position and he supports him now. He continued he believed Mr. Yasso is a very qualified candidate. He noted Mr. Yasso was born and raised in Bethlehem and very involved in the community. Mr. Recchiuti added he has known Mr. Yasso for about ten years and believes he will do a great job. He mentioned that since we went through this process last time, the Third Class City Code changed a little bit, with regards to the duties of a Controller. Mr. Recchiuti added they took out some of the auditing provisions that were required in the past. He concluded by saying Mr. Yasso was qualified then, and he believes he is qualified today. Mr. Recchiuti stated he will be supporting Mr. Yasso.
President Reynolds wanted to thank Mr. Wesley and Mr. Yasso for putting their names in to serve as Controller. He continued that he understands the public process of being appointed can be a little tough, so he certainly appreciates both candidates putting their names in for this position. President Reynolds concurred he believes Mr. Wesley and Mr. Yasso are both qualified for this position and would do a good job. President Reynolds stated he will be supporting Mr. Yasso tonight. He remarked Mr. Yasso submitted his name a few years ago for the vacancy that involved several meetings. President Reynolds recalled there were long meetings and discussions with questions and answers between the candidates and Council Members. President Reynolds informed he was impressed with Mr. Yasso at the time and continues to think he will do a great job. President Reynolds added this is a situation by which both individuals are very well qualified and would do a fine job, but he will be supporting Mr. Yasso tonight.
Mr. Waldron asked if we need a simple majority of four votes.
Solicitor Spirk replied yes. He added, four votes wins; three votes can win if it is more than anyone else; two votes cannot win.
President Reynolds stated he will accept Nominations for the Controller position. He added no second is required.
Mr. Recchiuti nominated George Yasso.
President Reynolds asked if there were any other Nominations and seeing none, closed the Nominations. He then asked the City Clerk to read the names of the candidates who received nominations.
The City Clerk stated that the name of the candidate who received a nomination is Mr. George Yasso.
President Reynolds informed they will move onto where the Clerk will call the roll of the Members of Council and the Members will vote on the nominees.
Mr. Callahan voted for George Yasso
Mr. Evans voted for George Yasso
Mr. Recchiuti voted for George Yasso
Ms. Reuscher voted for George Yasso
Mr. Stellato voted for George Yasso
Mr. Waldron voted for George Yasso
Mr. Reynolds voted for George Yasso
A. Filling Vacant Controller Position
President Reynolds advised that the Clerk will read the Resolution appointing the Controller, with the name of the individual, George Yasso, sponsored by Mr. Recchiuti and Mr. Evans.
The Clerk read the Resolution as follows: Be it resolved by the Council of the City of Bethlehem that, pursuant to Third Class City Optional Charter Law Sec. 406 (b) (53 P.S. Sec 41406(b), as a result of the death of David T. DiGiacinto, City Controller, George Yasso is hereby appointed to fill the vacancy of City Controller, effective as of February 23, 2015, and who shall serve until a successor is elected and is duly sworn into office on January 4, 2016.
Vacant Controller Position – Filled by George Yasso
Voting AYE: Mr. Callahan, Mr. Evans, Mr. Recchiuti, Ms. Reuscher, Mr. Stellato, Mr. Waldron, and Mr. Reynolds, 7. Resolution 2015-36 was passed.
7. PUBLIC COMMENT
President Reynolds stated he wanted to thank both individuals for putting their names in for City Controller. President Reynolds congratulated Mr. Yasso on the appointment as City Controller.
George Yasso, 1413 West Market Street, stated he was through this process three years ago when there was a vacancy in the Controller position. He remarked his decision to express his interest this time wasone that was a challenge due to who, until recently, held the position. Mr. Yasso stated he knew Mr. DiGiacinto since he was in high school. He noted he considered Mr. DiGiacinto a very good friend and had great respect for him. Mr. Yasso added they were friends before the vacancy vote deadlock three years ago. Mr. DiGiacinto gave him quite a bit of advice through the whole process, he added. Mr. Yasso pointed out he was very proud when Mr. DiGiacinto was elected as Controller. He continued Mr. DiGiacinto was a mentor to him, adding, he learned so much from him. Mr. Yasso expressed how devastated he was to hear that Mr. DiGiacinto passed away. He noted, as said by many others, he has big shoes to fill in assuming the Controller seat. Mr. Yasso thanked the Members of Council for the vote of confidence. He continued he has the support of his business partner and will commit whatever hours are necessary to fulfill the tasks of the Controller. Mr. Yasso added he would also like to thank Mr. Wesley for putting his name in to better the City of Bethlehem. Mr. Yasso noted as unfortunate as the circumstances are that this vacancy has occurred, he is looking forward to help move the City forward and progress.
The meeting was adjourned at 8:30 p.m.