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Waynesboro councilman walks out of meeting after confrontation

December 06, 2007|By JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - A Waynesboro borough councilman walked out of Wednesday's meeting, confronted his former employer on the way out and later was accused of taking payment for municipally required inspection services.

The borough's solicitor was instructed to "see what possible violations there may be and how they affect ethics, conflict of interest and anything that would fall in" related to the allegation that Charles "Chip" McCammon wrote a letter on borough letterhead saying that the recipient's check for inspection should be made in his name.

Council President Craig Newcomer said he has a copy of that letter, which he mentioned after McCammon left the meeting while saying he was "protesting." Newcomer said he planned to discuss the letter in McCammon's presence, but was caught off guard by his departure.

Contacted by phone after the meeting, McCammon cursed, then said, "I never did anything like that."

The "fracas" - as Wednesday's heated session was described by another councilman - centers on a dispute between McCammon and Mike Cermak, who serves as the borough's building inspector through a contract with Accredited Services Inc.

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McCammon, who used to work for Cermak, said he had examples of Cermak's poor job performance. The council was going to discuss those matters in closed session Wednesday, but Cermak invited them to do it in open session.

McCammon began to discuss four cases, but Newcomer stopped him several times to tell his fellow councilman that he wasn't the property owner.

The property owner should be the one making complaints, and they should be directed to the building code appeals board, Newcomer said.

"Every time I bring this up, the property owner doesn't want to do anything about it," McCammon said. The property owners are afraid, he said.

Newcomer permitted McCammon to speak about a duplex that he personally wired in the 200 block of West Main Street. His story of events differed from Cermak's, but concluded with McCammon saying Cermak made him switch to aluminum wires so that Cermak could take and sell the existing copper wiring.

"Copper was at $3 a pound," said McCammon, who is in the midst of his third four-year term.

Cermak said that, in that inspection process, McCammon came into his office yelling to "just tell Allegheny Power it's right." That intimidated both staff and customers, he said.

On his way from the council chambers - "I'm not getting anywhere" - McCammon walked toward Cermak and pointed his index finger. He asked Cermak whom had helped him get the business started.

You did, Cermak said, "and who fired you because you wanted (paid in) cash instead of checks?"

Cermak stood by that claim when further questioned by the council. He also told Newcomer that, yes, McCammon had accepted checks multiple times through the same process detailed in the letter.

"He did inspections for me, went out, made checks be paid to him and mailed to the borough," Cermak said.

Cermak accepted the remaining council member's apologies for the way things escalated in an open meeting.

"He has attempted to intimidate my people and I. Fortunately for me, I have a council of an open mind that can see what's happened," Cermak said, adding that he's never had complaints in the other municipalities where his company does business.

Several council members issued apologies to "the public" for the ongoing, tempestuous discussions along the same vein as Wednesday's.

"The public deserves better," Councilman Allen Berry said.

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