New Castle News

January 11, 2014

John K. Manna: Council members clash on filling empty slot

John K. Manna
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — What a way to begin a new session of New Castle City Council.

If this is a honeymoon, I can’t imagine what the divorce may look like.

Not that I’m predicting any kind of irreconcilable differences among members of council, but they got off to a rocky start Thursday night in attempting to fill a vacancy on council.

“Attempting” is the key word because the two holdover members and the two newest members couldn’t reach agreement on who should fill the fifth spot and, thus, were deadlocked. Disharmony is putting it lightly to describe how the debate went Thursday.

Councilmen William Panella and Richard Beshero were adamant about having former councilman Ed Yerage fill the two-year term. Councilmen Anthony Adamo and Tim Fulkerson, the two new members, were just as adamant in naming someone else or at least opening up the process to anyone who may be interested.

If anyone is interested in filling the seat, he or she can submit an application to the city clerk by Thursday. It doesn’t mean they will even be considered because Panella and Beshero know who they want and don’t see the need to seek applications.

Legally, council can take any approach it wants. It can solicit applications or it can forego that route and appoint anyone it deems fit for the job. In the last three instances — 2008, 2009 and 2012 — that vacancies occurred, council opened up the process.

In 2008 and 2009, council ended up appointing two former members of council, John Russo and Richard Costello. In 2012, it named Thomas Smith who had not served on council.

Thus, there is an argument that precedent has been set by seeking applications or letters of interest, so why not continue with that process?

Unless someone changes his mind or caves to pressure before Feb. 5, the matter will end up in the Lawrence County Court of Common Pleas, more specifically in the hands of President Judge Dominick Motto.

Before anyone becomes alarmed at such a possibility, there is precedent for this as well. Back in 1967 when John C. Jordan resigned as mayor, the decision for replacing him ended up in court.

The court selected attorney Robert E. Jamison to serve the remainder of Jordan’s term, which happened to be through the end of 1967.

Although Jamison was a Republican, he was not a politician and had no aspirations to seek elective office. He was a moderating influence when council needed it. The court could not have made a better choice.