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Councilman's trip fuels feud on Williamsport Town Council

October 13, 2007|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

WILLIAMSPORT - The cost of a town councilman's trip to a state convention has fueled a feud within Williamsport's government.

The main issue is Councilman Jeff Cline's expense records for the Maryland Municipal League (MML) conference in Ocean City, Md., in June.

He said he noticed that the town paid four nights for his hotel when he only stayed three nights.

Clerk/Treasurer James R. Castle said he wasn't told Cline wasn't staying four nights. When he found out, the town got its money back.

There was so much resentment about the town's convention expense records, though, the town council held a closed meeting in July, but Cline, upset, walked out after a short time, those who attended say.


Some think a personality clash between Cline and others is interfering with town business.

"I just feel that one of these days, it's going to break loose," Councilman Earle R. Pereschuk Sr. said.

Assistant Mayor Monty R. Jones said the bad feelings are beyond repair.

"I think that Councilman Cline needs to resign and move on," he said.

Cline, however, said some town officials have kept a "dossier" on him for months in "an ongoing effort to diminish my efforts because I ask questions."

Cline said he was annoyed he had to file a Freedom of Information request to see more records about the town's MML expenses.

Castle said Cline stormed into his office, angry, and demanded a list of records. To be sure Cline got what he wanted, he asked Cline to write his request, Castle said.

Since then, Cline has voted against accepting Castle's monthly financial reports.

Mayor James G. McCleaf II noted that Cline has approved a financial audit that backed how the town handled the MML situation.

Pereschuk said Cline asks legitimate questions, but faces "a lot of jealousy" over his success in the MML and in getting grants for the town.

Although McCleaf, Jones, Cline and Nelson F. Deal ran for office together two years ago, Jones said his relationship with Cline soured long ago.

"There's a struggle (for one council member) to be more important than the others," McCleaf said.

The latest signs surfaced Monday, before the council awarded a contract for minipavilions at Byron Memorial Park.

Cline insisted on changing the location of a few minipavilions. McCleaf said Cline, who oversees park operations, should have paid attention to those details earlier.

Cline also questioned if a new park road might flood a ball field. Exasperated, Jones said an engineering firm already has explained that it won't.

Several people said the atmosphere needs to change.

"It's causing a lot of friction and ill feelings," Councilman James C. Kalbfleisch said. "It shouldn't be that way."

Councilman Anthony T. Drury said the council should "focus on what's really important, and that's the well-being of the town of Williamsport."

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