Washington mayor says she’s a liability without bulletproof vest

City chief says she’s a liability without bulletproof vest

March 7, 2013
Washington Mayor Brenda Davis expresses displeasure toward Councilman Matt Staniszewski, far right, at yet another contentious city council meeting Thursday. Councilman Terry Faust is seated at center. - Scott Beveridge / Observer-Reporter Order a Print

The mayor of Washington was criticized Thursday by a city councilman for using taxpayer money to purchase a bulletproof vest to wear while she accompanies police officers on the job.

Councilman Ken Westcott said Mayor Brenda Davis would have the public believe she’s fiscally responsible yet she spent $755 on the vest while some city patrolmen on drug raids wear expired bulletproof gear.

“It’s a liability for the city for me to be in a (police) car without a vest,” Davis said at yet another contentious City Council meeting.

The meeting began with the board appearing in a somber mood after Councilman Matt Staniszewski made national headlines and was ridiculed on late-night television this week for sending out a city transit email and text blast to the public calling his friend gay, thinking the system had yet to go public.

Davis read a letter she received from a resident who stated Staniszewski’s actions were callous and hurtful before discussions turned to a topic more people in the audience appeared to be interested in, and that was an increase in the residential garbage pickup bill.

The mayor blamed Staniszewski for the rate increase from $175 a year to $243 a year, claiming the contract had to go out for bids a second time because of his actions.

“You guys are tacky,” a resident shouted from the audience, while other residents sought permission to pay that bill quarterly.

The motion on the rate increase passed in a 3-2 vote, with the mayor and Staniszewski voting no.

In other business, Councilman Ken Westcott made a motion to approve the early dismissal of city employees during a Jan. 25 snowstorm, an issue Davis has complained about over her claims that decision should have been hers to make rather than council’s outside of a public meeting.

Resident Jim Bower went to the lectern and demanded that council quit arguing over that call.

“I can’t see where it’s a big issue,” Bower said.

The motion to approve the early dismissal passed in a 4-1 vote, with Davis casting the no vote, before the bickering at the council table switched to the topic of the bulletproof vest.

“I am the mayor, the head of the police department,” Davis said. “I need to be protected.”

Davis justified her riding in a police car by saying she needs to spend time with officers on the job in order to choose a new police chief.

Before the meeting adjourned, Staniszewski said city hall needs to put an end to all of the fighting, while also recognizing he made a mistake in making the gay reference.

His statement was met with shouts of “You’re part of it,” from members of the audience.

Davis replied by saying she was embarrassed by the attention the comment received, and that the city does not need to be diverted from dealing with serious issues by “bringing up a bulletproof vest.”

“We are not here to play games and fool around,” she said. “I’m not here to cause problems or create controversies.”

Scott Beveridge is a North Charleroi native who has lived most of his life in nearby Rostraver Township. He is a general assignments reporter focusing on investigative journalism and writing stories about the mid-Mon Valley. He has a bachelor's degree from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and a master's from Duquesne University. Scott spent three weeks in Vietnam in 2004 as a foreign correspondent under an International Center for Journalists fellowship.

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