Washington Councilman Matt Staniszewski’s admission that he sent out a city transit rider test alert calling a friend gay has Mayor Brenda Davis questioning his role in the company contracted to provide information technology services to the city’s transit authority.
While Staniszewski says he informed council and Davis personally that he was a member of the board of directors for nTouch Inc., Davis says he did not. She was unaware he had access to the website.
The test rider alert email that said “Alert: This is a test. Bryan is gay” went out Feb. 25, and soon after the city received an email from a Canonsburg man concerned because the alert was received on his work account. He did not want to be identified but told the Observer-Reporter he could get fired for receiving such an email.
Staniszewski said Tuesday he was assisting in testing the transit system’s new smartphone alert system when he sent out the email.
“I was not aware that the system was live. I thought it was still in a testing environment,” he said.
Washington City Transit Authority contracted with nTouch Inc. to operate its website in May 2011. The contract was signed by Bryan Stopperich of Canonsburg, and his address appears on the contract. Stopperich did not return telephone calls seeking comment. Staniszewski said there are a number of people involved with the company but declined to name them.
The company has been paid $19,000 for setting up and operating the website. As a board member, Staniszewski said he does not derive any income from the business. He also noted he had abstained from any voting associated with hiring of the company or paying its bills.
Although he abstains, Davis said, Staniszewski fails to state his reasons why.
“He has abstained from voting, which is proper, but his abstentions have not been done according to the third-class city code. Mr. Staniszewksi has known this and has said he is going to correct it,” said Lane Turturice, the city’s solicitor.
Turturice aknowledged he is also attempting to confirm the propriety of the city’s contract with nTouch. While the contract lists Stopperich’s address, articles of incorporation filed with the Pennsylvania Department of State list Staniszewski’s home address as the registered office address. In Staniszewski’s 2011 financial disclosure, he lists himself as a board member without remuneration for nTouch, at an address in Scenery Hill that is the home of a relative.
Although Staniszewski said his connection with the company was disclosed in his statement of financial interest filed at City Hall last year, the only financial statements provided there last week when a reporter asked for copies were those filed by Councilmen Ken Westcott and Terry Faust and the mayor.
The state Ethics Act prohibits anyone from taking the oath of office or any compensation from public funds unless a statement has been filed. Statements are due May 1 for the previous year.
Councilman Joe Manning said he was late submitting his 2012 statement and turned it in Friday. But his 2011 statement should be at City Hall, he said. Staniszewski said his statements also should be on file. On Tuesday, he emailed a copy of his 2012 statement to the Observer-Reporter time-stamped March 26, 2012. The statements of the other council members do not have time stamps on them.
His disclosure statement lists him as serving as a board member without remuneration with Sons of the American Legion, BIG LLC, Sum Companies Co., Lockhouse Inc., Portal Payments LLC, Figurate Entertainment Corp., SPG Partners LLC and Center City Group Inc. All but Sons of the American Legion and Center City Group list the same Scenery Hill address.
Staniszewski said he had dinner with the mayor about a year ago and told Davis about his involvement on the nTouch board. Davis said they may have had dinner together, but the information was never relayed to her.
“He has never once told me he was a board member or had access to the site. He just got caught, and he’s just trying to backpedal,” she said.
Wondering why his ethics statement “magically disappeared” from City Hall, Staniszewski said the mayor has a vendetta against him and the bigger issue is her turning City Hall “into an episode of ‘The Jerry Springer Show.’” The councilman, who oversees the city’s street department, said he plans to concentrate on what residents want: paved streets, safer neighborhoods and a thriving business district.