HONESDALE, PA — The January 2 annual reorganization meeting of Honesdale Borough Council had barely begun when an impasse threatened to halt it. In its first official act, the new council was unable to elect a president by majority vote, as required by law. Three attempts, with identical results each time, left the vote irreconcilably split between Mike Augello, president for the past two years, and his immediate predecessor, James Brennan.
Normally, the deciding vote falls to the mayor in case of a tie. But, technically, this was not a tie, as both nominees were required by law to abstain from voting for themselves. Here’s why: the president earns a slightly higher monthly stipend for his service than do other councilors; and borough law states that a councilor must abstain from voting whenever his vote could bring him monetary gain.
Instead of one vote in which all members voted for the person they wanted as president, the votes were taken separately: first to vote for or against Augello as president, and second for or against Brennan as president. With one seat left vacant by Troy Johnson’s death, each vote split at 3-2-1, 1 denoting abstention.
From his seat in the gallery, attorney Richard Henry, who has served for years as borough solicitor, had a suggestion for a solution, though he had yet to be reappointed to that post. He proposed that they appoint a pro tempore president until the council vacancy is filled. Bob Jennings was voted president pro tempore and presided for the remainder of the meeting.
Bill Canfield was elected vice president. Judy Poltanis was reappointed as borough secretary and open records officer. James Sayre was reappointed as borough treasurer and pension administrator. Richard Henry was reappointed as borough solicitor. Steve Bates was reappointed as borough fire chief. James Theobald was reappointed to the planning commission.
Most vacancies were filled with candidates waiting in the wings, but Henry urged particular scrutiny in filling vacancies on the Zoning Hearing Board (ZHB) created by the resignations of Mayor Sarah Canfield and former borough resident Jason Olinger. Saying the ZHB acts as judge and jury in disputed zoning decisions, Henry urged advertisement for ZHB candidates.
Brennan proposed a return to one regular council meeting at 6 p.m. on the second Monday of each month, over the objections of Augello, Lauffenburger and James Jennings. After a mayoral vote broke the tie in Brennan’s favor, he asked that the new schedule take effect in February, permitting the already scheduled January 15 meeting to address pressing borough issues, among them filling Johnson’s vacant council seat.
Candidates for Johnson’s vacancy must submit resumes by 3 p.m. on January 11 and be available for interviews at the council’s January 15 meeting. The successful candidate’s appointment will last only until the next general election.
Newly-elected Mayor Sarah Canfield, Honesdale born and bred, won office on her second run, defeating incumbent Melody Robinson. Civic mindedness runs in the family. Before resigning from office last summer for medical reasons, Sarah’s husband Bill served three and a half years on council. She attended council meetings to keep him abreast of issues when he was ill, and his re-election in November has added a new dimension to shared responsibilities that include parenting the couple’s two children while Sarah works as a certified nurse assistant at Wayne Memorial Hospital.
After opening her first meeting with a meditation, Canfield swore in new fire police officer Richard Dooley and a new part-time police officer, patrolman Raymond Kuehner, formerly of the Virginia Beach police force. Next, she recognized Detective Richard Fuschino’s invaluable leads in tracking down the alleged perpetrator of a December 11 armed robbery at China Castle restaurant on Main Street, and called Patrolman Keith Rynearson’s drug and alcohol investigations serious inroads in the war on substance abuse-related crime.