Mercersburg mayor resigns after controversy

April 01, 2003|by RICHARD BELISLE

MERCERSBURG, Pa. - Brooks Harryman, president of the Mercersburg Borough Council, said Monday he will serve as interim mayor until a replacement can be found for Harold Wagner, who resigned last week over a controversy surrounding the borough manager.

The flap goes back to mid-February and a fight outside a North Main Street bar. Borough Police Officers Shawn Grove and Kenneth Swisher responded.

Borough Manager Thelma Ambrose was there that night, too, Police Chief Larry Thomas said.

At one point, Ambrose got on a police radio and called 911 for backup, Thomas said. She was told several times by the dispatcher to get off the radio, Thomas said.


The officers at the scene had the situation under control and did not ask Ambrose to call, he said.

Officers from Chambersburg, Pa., and Greencastle, Pa., responded to Ambrose's call, Thomas said. Others were on their way from other Franklin County police departments but were turned back by dispatchers before they reached Mercersburg, he said.

Officials at Franklin County Emergency Services sent a formal letter of complaint to Wagner. It was turned over to the borough's attorney, who checked with the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC said Ambrose did not break any rules because the borough is the licensee for the radio.

"There was no legal issue involved," Councilwoman Jeanne Rader said Monday.

Ambrose's actions also were referred to the council's personnel committee.

Wagner, 78, who served as mayor for six years, said last week he resigned because of verbal abuse he's taken over the incident involving Ambrose from citizens and council members.

"I thought I was doing a good job, but last week was very hectic," Wagner said. "I couldn't believe the way some of them were talking to me."

Councilwoman Michele Quattrociocchi said Wagner was doing his job by investigating the incident.

Harryman said the incident "is a dead issue."

The council voted to place the FCC ruling and the Emergency Services complaint letter in Ambrose's file as information only, Rader said.

Rader said she would not seek re-election to a third term, but that her decision was not related to the radio incident.

"Eight years is long enough. There are some talented people out there who can step forward. It's a great job," she said.

Neither the council nor the mayor are paid a salary.

So far no one has shown interest in the mayor's job, he said.

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