Tonight at 6:30 the Tarentum Borough Council met for its organizing meeting for the year. District Judge Carolyn S. Bengel administered the oath of office to each of the newly elected Council members.
There were two nominees for President of Council: Carl Magnetta and WIlliam Rossey. Carl Magnetta was elected by a vote of 4-3, in which Mayor Wolfe cast the deciding vote.
There were two nominees for Vice-President of Council: Mike Gutonski and William Rossey. Mike Gutonski was elected by a vote of 5-1.
The Council needed to fill a number of positions this evening, but President Magnetta felt that the positions should be filled without following the borough's normal process of advertising the positions to determine if other qualified individuals were interested in serving. A motion was made to advertise all the positions, but it failed by a 4-3 vote. Separate motions were then made to advertise each position as it was presented on the docket, but each of those motions failed.
The Council appointed David Strellec as the Borough Solicitor, and Gibson Thomas as the Borough Engineers.
There was a unanimous vote to accept the resignation of Carl Magnetta from the Third Ward Council seat.
The motion to advertise the new vacancy on the Third Ward Council seat failed. Joe Davidek, who did not stand for popular election in the fall campaign, was appointed to fill the vacancy.
The motion to advertise the single seat on the "Vacancy Board" failed by a vote of 2-5. The Borough Council appointed Michael Davidek to the vacancy board. In the course of discussing this matter, Joe Davidek acknowledged that Michael Davidek was his brother, and then participated in voting for his appointment anyhow.
President Magnetta recognized Jeff Thomas to make a statement to dispel rumors about his health, and to assure the Council and community that his work would be handled during his convalescence.
Although there was no item on the docket for citizen comments, Council President Magnetta then recognized Peter Varos to offer a statement of advice to the Borough Council that they should work together. He then recognized his son-in-law to comment on a number of issues unrelated to the business of the meeting.
Following the meeting I had a conversation with some citizens who were concerned about Mr. Magnetta's invitation to his pastor, Father Aaron Kriss, to offer an invocation following the oaths of office for the council members. This is the first time that I have seen prayer offered during a Tarentum Borough Council meeting. Father Kriss commented on today being a day for devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus, and then led the Council in prayer. Some of the citizens felt that a specific religion was being forced upon them, and were not comfortable with that part of the meeting. My own feeling was that, although I saw the First Amendment issue, governmental bodies do frequently invite clergypeople to lead in prayer. It seemed to me that as long as the members of the Council saw the pastoral ministry of the invitee as appropriate for them, any concerns of those observing the meeting should be secondary. I have no way of knowing whether the full Council was consulted before this invitation was extended.