Chambersburg mayor breaks tie at first council meeting

January 08, 2008|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The last time a mayor cast a tie-breaking vote was likely more than eight years ago when Robert Morris was in office, but newly sworn-in Mayor Peter Lagiovane got to do the honors within minutes of taking his oath.

Lagiovane was the deciding vote after the council deadlocked on electing its president. Council President William McLaughlin had the support of council members Robert Wareham, Glenn Manns, Elaine Swartz and Janet Lukic, while Sharon Bigler, Mary Beth Shank, Heath Talhelm and Tom Newcomer backed Allen Coffman.

The new mayor quickly cast his vote for McLaughlin, the president for the past six years.

"There has been a serious lack of communications between the council president and the council," Bigler said after the meeting.

"There have been issues over the years and with five of us expressing our disapproval, it will result in good things happening," said Bigler, who nominated Coffman. "We made our statement."


"It just goes to prove that the council is not monolithic and people vote their own minds," McLaughlin said.

The mayor's other major duty is overseeing the borough police department, which has no police chief since Michael DeFrank put in his last day in office on Friday. His resignation becomes effective later this month, but he is now using up remaining vacation and his letter of resignation was accepted Monday night.

McLaughlin asked Newcomer if would amend the motion to accept DeFrank's resignation "with regret."

"Mr. President, that would be fine," said Newcomer, who often had a strained relationship with the chief of police when he was mayor.

Lagiovane, elected in November to fill the final two years of the late Mayor John Redding's term, also will serve on a committee to recommend a new candidate for chief to the council. Borough Manager Eric Oyer, Assistant Manager David Finch, Manns and Newcomer will serve on that committee, but the borough will seek the help of the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association to narrow the field.

The mayor asked if a time frame has been set for selecting DeFrank's successor.

"Let me give you a definitive answer. Our fire chief resigned in 'November '05," Oyer said. The position remains unfilled.

"That's not the answer I wanted to hear," Lagiovane said.

Some council members said this process should go faster.

In the absence of a chief, day-to-day operations of the police department are in the hands of Sgt. Walter Bietsch, Lagiovane said. Administrative duties are being handled by Detective Sgt. Dianne Kelso, he said.

The council did decide that the chief's job will remain a civil service position so that the chief will retain arrest powers.

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