Robert Pfenning is New City Controller
Retired accountant is picked by panel of Northampton County judges, which interviewed candidates this week.
A panel of Northampton County judges today selected Bethlehem’s new controller, choosing a candidate that was not a first pick of any member of City Council.
Robert Pfenning, 71, a retired accountant, will fill the $49,000-a-year part-time job through the end of 2013, according to published reports. He will finish the term that Meg Holland was elected to serve in 2009.
All nine Northampton County judges met this week to interview four of six candidates that had initially applied, The Express-Times reported.
Pfenning attends most council meetings and frequently comments on the proceedings during the public comment portions of the meeting.
Last year, Pfenning served as campaign treasurer for the Republican candidates for City Council – Al Bernotas, Tom Carroll and Tony Simao – who all lost in the general election.
According to his resume, Pfenning was a self-employed accountant and software writer for nearly a quarter century. He also taught accounting and economics classes at Lehigh University while working at the university for more than 20 years.
More recently he chaired Northampton County Gambling Impact Committee and the Act 1 Tax Study Committee for the Bethlehem Area School District.
Holland’s decision to step down in January – to devote more time to her own accounting business – set in motion a selection process that started with City Council soliciting candidates to replace her.
But council could not agree on a replacement. Council remained split three ways in eight separate votes taken over three meetings in February.
Each time, Councilman David DiGiacinto was favored by council members Robert Donchez and Jean Belinski; financial adviser George Yasso was backed by Councilmen J. William Reynolds and Michael Recchiutti; and retired economist William Scheirer was backed by Council President Eric Evans and Councilwoman Karen Dolan.
As an applicant, DiGiacinto was disqualified from voting.
Out of six candidates who had applied for the position, Pfenning was the only other candidate to receive a nomination – from Dolan. But the councilwoman backed Scheirer when it came time to vote.
Council voted at its last meeting to ask Northampton County Court to make the decision, a move which was criticized by Mayor John Callahan and Reynolds, who cast the lone dissenting vote.