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Former Williamsport mayor demands apology

August 14, 2007|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

WILLIAMSPORT - Former Mayor John W. Slayman on Monday demanded an apology from Councilman Jeff Cline for contacting a "fraud hot line" two years ago about the town's missing federal grant money.

Slayman vowed to take further action, which he didn't specify, if Cline didn't apologize for comments that Slayman said denigrated his administration.

Defending his inquiry into the financial confusion, Cline refused to say he was sorry.

"There will be no forthcoming apology," he told Slayman, "so please take your next step."

In July 2005, Cline sent an e-mail to a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development fraud hot line. He asked HUD to look into confusion surrounding $183,000 out of a $425,000 grant the town received in 1986.

The town used the $183,000 for a low-interest revolving-loan fund for people fixing up their properties.

In 2005, town officials said they could only account for about one-fifth of the money.

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Cline accused the town of poor management.

HUD declared in 2006 that the town didn't violate regulations attached to the grant.

In May 2007, Cline gave The Herald-Mail a copy of a HUD summary that says there was no evidence the town did anything wrong.

"To me, it's a done issue," he said at the time.

Slayman, however, said Monday that he's given Cline more than two years to apologize. Slayman said Cline accused his administration of fraud.

"It hurt me bad," he said.

Slayman was mayor for 20 years before James G. McCleaf II defeated him in the 2005 election.

Cline, one of McCleaf's running mates, also won.

Slayman said Monday that he'd round up all 37 council members with whom he has served if that's what it takes to get Cline to apologize.

Cline replied that there was no public record of him saying Slayman's administration committed fraud, so there was no need to apologize.

In an Aug. 25, 2005, story about Cline's request for a HUD investigation, The Herald-Mail quoted him calling the town "lax about doing business in a professional manner."

Cline was not quoted as using the word "fraud," other than to say he had contacted the fraud hot line.

After the meeting, Cline said, "This is just a political attack. I feel bad for him."

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