Council Again Fails to Pick New Controller

Council deadlocked at 2 votes each for 3 candidates. Decision may have to go to court.


City Council remained deadlocked in trying to choose a controller to replace Meg Holland Tuesday night, inching Bethlehem closer to having its next financial watchdog picked by Northampton County Court.

After nearly two hours of discussion, including further questioning of two of the nominees, three controller candidates each had the support of two council members. Four votes are necessary to fill the vacancy.

Councilman David DiGiacinto was supported by Councilman Robert Donchez and Councilwoman Jean Belinski; Retired economist William Scheirer was supported by Council President Eric Evans and Councilwoman Karen Dolan; Financial planner George Yasso got the support of Councilmen Michael Recchiuti and J. William Reynolds.

DiGiacinto, as a nominee for the job, was restricted from participating in the vote.

The result, voted twice on Tuesday, was exactly as it was when council met in a special session and voted three times last Thursday, February 16.

Council scheduled another meeting for next Monday, February 27, to make another attempt at picking Holland’s successor in a last-ditch effort to avoid sending the matter to court. That meeting will take place after a previously scheduled Human Resources and Environment Committee meeting – scheduled to start at 6 p.m. in Town Hall – concludes.

If council fails to name a new controller by March 1, any 10 eligible voters in Bethlehem could legally petition the court to pick one, according to Christopher Spadoni, council’s solicitor.

Spadoni suggested that council, if it remains deadlocked after Monday, make that petition itself with all of the application materials that had been submitted for review.

Council’s attorney said he would not predict what the court might do with the decision, but judges would be under no obligation to consider only the three candidates council favors.

Six people submitted their names to council for consideration and the court would also be free to pick any other eligible person with the proper qualifications to do the job, Spadoni said.

The other candidates that had applied for the job were retired accountant Robert Pfenning, public policy specialist Jason Toedter and former facilities technician Duran Chakarian.

“The court has very … expansive authority,” Spadoni said, adding that he believes Donchez best summed it up last week when he said: “Council should do everything in its power to appoint a controller before going to court.”

Al Bernotas February 22, 2012 at 12:20 PM
Mr. Donchez said, “Council should do everything in its power to appoint a controller before going to court.” That sentence would make more sense if it said, "Council should do everything in its power to appoint a "competent" controller before going to court." The implication in Mr. Donchez' quote is that "any" candidate would be better than "no" candidate. Wrong! There are six voting Council members. They should do their "best" to select the "best." So far, Council has nominated two highly qualified candidates from the pool of three highly qualified candidates. The following members of Council are to be commended for trying to select the best; Mrs. Belinski, Mrs. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, and Mr. Evans. Settling for "any" candidate, just to save face, is extremely poor judgment.


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