New Castle News

January 11, 2014

Council deadlocked on filling vacancy

John K. Manna
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — A Lawrence County judge may have to fill a vacancy on New Castle City Council.

That will happen — unless the four members of council can break a deadlock over filling a seat for a two-year term before Feb. 5.

Four council members took 10 roll call votes Thursday night but were unable to reach a consensus on four different nominees.

President William Panella and Richard Beshero favored former councilman Ed Yerage for the seat while Anthony Adamo and Tim Fulkerson nominated other people.

However, both Adamo and Fulkerson, who joined council this week, want to give city residents the opportunity to file a letter of interest to serve on council. They set a Thursday deadline for submitting an application to the city clerk.

Whether the full council will consider the applications is questionable because Panella and Beshero said they oppose the idea.

The seat became vacant Monday when Adamo opted to accept a four-year term. He was elected in November to both four- and two-year terms.

Six separate votes were taken for Yerage. Council — all four Democrats — also voted down former councilwoman MaryAnne Gavrile, former county Republican chairman William Schafer and Jeff Shaftic — twice.

Adamo nominated Shaftic and Gavrile; Fulkerson nominated Schafer.

Any candidate had to receive at least three votes to be selected. However, if a vote ended in a 2-2 tie, Mayor Anthony Mastrangelo would have had the option to break it.

None of the votes ended in ties, according to solicitor Jason Medure. He explained that because two members had nominated Yerage and two had nominated two other people, there were no ties and council, therefore, was deadlocked.

When Fulkerson initially made a motion to seek applications, Beshero said, “I don’t see any reason for letters of intent. There’s no secret who I want.”

He said Yerage has the experience of serving on council for the past four years.

“If Mr. Yerage wanted the office,” Fulkerson responded, “he should have sought the office.”

Adamo said, “People should have the opportunity to apply.”

After the first roll call, Fulkerson asked, “I want to know why we’re being railroaded into this tonight. We were just sworn in the other night. We’re not asking the city of New Castle for their very best.”

Panella took exception to Fulkerson’s comments, saying, “Nobody’s railroading anybody.”

Adamo commented, “I just think that we may miss the opportunity for someone who may be better or just as good as Mr. Yerage.”

If Yerage ends up being the best candidate after that process, he continued, “then so be it.”

Once it was apparent the deadlock would not be broken, Panella said it appears the matter would have to be decided by the court.

Both Fulkerson and Adamo said they believe it’s a bad idea to have the court decide.

“I have a lot of confidence that (President) Judge (Dominick) Motto will make a good decision,” Panella responded.

After Fulkerson again mentioned being railroaded, Panella answered, “Nobody’s railroading anything.

“You knew about this two months ago,” he said in reference to a vacancy. “You know how the process works.”

“Yes, but we never sent it to the courts,” Fulkerson said with regard to previous appointments.

“We don’t have the consensus,” Panella said.

Beshero added, “I think it’s quite apparent where everybody stands.”

Medure said 30 days must pass from Monday — when Adamo was sworn in to the four-year term — before the matter can be considered by the court.

The Third Class City Code requires the court to fill the vacancy upon the petition of at least 10 registered voters after the 30 calendar days pass.

(Email: jmanna@ncnewsonline.com)