N. Strabane officials deadlocked on new appointments

January 29, 2014
North Strabane Township Supervisor Sonia Stopperich motions while speaking during Tuesday night’s meeting as Chairman Robert Balogh listens. - Mike Jones / Observer-Reporter Order a Print

The dysfunction within the fractured North Strabane Township Board of Supervisors reached a new level Tuesday night when the three members were unable to agree on anyone to fill two vacancies on the board.

The three sitting supervisors, Robert Balogh, Sonia Stopperich and Brian Spicer, agreed on little during the 90-minute agenda meeting as they tried unsuccessfully to appoint several other vital positions within the township’s municipal government.

“We’re kind of in a state of limbo right here,” township manager Frank Siffrinn said.

The deadlock led to testy exchanges between the supervisors and several township residents, who chastised the board for failing to choose anyone for the vacancies.

Rita Polansky, one of seven people who submitted letters of interest for the open board seats, accused Spicer of having “an agenda” with his votes, although she did not elaborate on what that meant.

“We’ve made every effort,” Spicer said.

“No, you didn’t,” Polansky said.

In addition to Polansky, Neil Kelly, Bill Brooks, Marcus Staley, Harold Close, Catherine Casciotti and Nicholas Sherman have applied for the open seats.

Spicer nominated both Staley and Close for the two-year terms with Balogh in agreement, but Stopperich voted against both appointments to spike those motions. In return, Stopperich tried to nominate Kelly and Brooks for the vacancies but she received no support for the appointments. Both men ran for the seats last November and lost.

That sparked a rapid-fire list of failed appointments for solicitor, parks and recreation director, municipal authority director, police pension board and parks and recreation board. The supervisors did agree to appoint Balogh as the township’s emergency management coordinator and Spicer as the board’s representative on the police pension committee.

The biggest problem, though, is with the lack of the appointments for supervisor, which means the three officials will hold a “vacancy board” hearing at 8 p.m. Feb. 7. Vacancy board Chairman Stewart White will be at the meeting in an attempt to break the stalemate, but his vote could lead to another tie, meaning the matter would then go to Washington County Court

Stopperich is concerned that White won’t be able to break the deadlock on the supervisor appointments.

“It’s very frustrating,” Stopperich said. “I have not slept well for two months now ever since this happened. It’s been on my mind constantly. I want to do well for the residents.”

The vacancies happened when Balogh won both two- and six-year terms on the board in November’s election. He selected the longer term and resigned from his two-year seat Jan. 3. Former supervisor Jeff Stanley resigned from his seat Dec. 30.

Karen Jacobs of Eighty Four questioned Balogh about why they didn’t automatically appoint Kelly and Brooks to the vacancies since they campaigned for the positions and finished in the runner-up spots for the two terms.

“When I look at the results of the election, I don’t look at them the way other people do,” Balogh said. “Every (supervisor) is entitled to their vote. Now we’re going through the process. We’re not happy with how this has happened either.”

The stalemate follows a similar situation at the township’s reorganization meeting Jan. 6, in which no appointments were made.

Mike Jones has been a news reporter since 2005, covering crime, state and municipal government, education and energy. In addition to working at the Observer-Reporter, he also has spent time at the Charleston (W.Va.) Daily Mail and Patch.com. He holds a journalism degree from West Virginia University.

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