New Castle News


April 27, 2012

Our Opinion: Resignation in Neshannock highlights leadership issue

NEW CASTLE — With Neshannock Township now seeking a new manager, we hope the supervisors have learned something from their experiences so far.

That’s because their efforts to date on selecting a manager for the municipality haven’t gone very well. Ironically, the questionable practices and decision-making displayed by the supervisors demonstrate the need for sound management in the township.

It’s painfully obvious that the first choice for township manager, Craig Altman, wasn’t the right person for the post. He submitted his resignation just two weeks into the job for “personal” reasons.

What those reasons were and why Altman quit we really can’t say. The supervisors, particularly Ralph Sheen and Ed Stevens, have been remarkably closed mouthed about both the process that selected Altman and what led to his mysterious departure.

The entire affair has been so secretive that Neshannock’s third supervisor, Joe Gierlach, complained the other two didn’t bother to inform him of Altman’s resignation letter. Gierlach opposed the creation of the manager post and didn’t support Altman’s hiring.

Here at the New Castle News, we have followed Neshannock Township’s leadership saga, while trying to explain to our readers what has happened and why. As part of this process, the newspaper requested a copy of Altman’s resume under Pennsylvania’s open records law.

Now, you would think that pulling a resume out of a file — particularly one only recently submitted — would not pose a challenge for a township. But at Neshannock, the five days the township had to respond to a request came and went. The News was told an additional 30 days would be needed in order to comply with the law.

Obviously, it doesn’t take this amount of time to retrieve a resume. When people act as if they have something to hide, observers usually conclude that they do.

The resume issue is important, mainly because of questions surrounding Altman’s hiring. He did not appear to have any discernible qualifications that one normally would expect in a township manager.

Typically, someone hired for a top township post has a background in public administration. The individual needs to be qualified to deal with assorted matters that come up in municipal government, ranging from labor issues to zoning questions to street maintenance to economic development inquiries — all while recognizing that every taxpayer is an employer.

In short, it’s a tough task and experience counts.

The supervisors ought to keep that in mind as they now say they will seek a replacement for Altman. They need to learn from their mistakes and do a better job.

They also need to be more open with the public.

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