Content about solicitor


A couple weeks ago my blog "And they're off..." noted that both Ben Avon and Emsworth councils had started the new year by abandoning procedures designed to make sure that taxpayers get the most for their money. In Ben Avon, the new council hired a solicitor without obtaining rates or proposals from other law firms. In Emsworth, the new council switched its legal advertising to a daily paper, which threatened to add some $11,000 to the borough's budget this year.


Every two years, on the first Monday in January, we at The Citizen are challenged to be at four municipal reorganization meetings within an hour and a half. By now, we pretty much have this down to a science, as we start in Emsworth and move up river to Bellevue in half-hour increments.

Historically, we breeze through Emsworth, Ben Avon and Avalon to get to the fireworks in Bellevue, where an obviously tainted water supply has made officials testy at best, and downright nasty at other times.


I checked to see if there was a full moon on Wednesday. Given the jaw-dropping displays that occurred in government settings across the North Boroughs, I was sure the moon was exerting some major influence.

Nope. No full moon. Not even a new moon, or even a quarter moon. The moon could not be responsible.

There must be something in the water.


Sometimes it's the littlest things -- the ones you think are unimportant and can safely be set aside until you can get around to them -- that come back to bite you the worst.


Sometimes things happen in the course of gathering news that defy our best efforts to shape them into a news story.


The one thing lawyers absolutely hate with a passion are surprises.


On Monday, Jan. 4, The Citizen staff attended five different municipal meetings. At the first four, the procedure was pretty much the same. The meetings began at the advertised time with the swearing-in of newly-elected officials, followed by the election of a president and vice president. They then moved quickly through such first-of-the-year business as naming committees, appointing a solicitor, and setting meeting dates for the coming year. The meetings ended with everyone sharing refreshments and good will.


After a couple weeks of pretty much nonstop nastiness at municipal meetings -- highlighted by one resident actually accusing a Kilbuck official of putting melted marshmallows in her mail box -- I am issuing a plea that we all remember that this is a season of love, giving and joy.

Yeah, right.


Attempts to deal with problems associated with Bellevue’s streetscape have run into a little road bump, as borough officials discovered that they are missing some key documents.


Avalon residents in the area of a condemned house on South Chestnut Street may finally get their wish to see the fire-damaged building demolished.

Borough solicitor Megan Ott told Avalon Council members at their meeting Tuesday that efforts to have the homeowner or the mortgage company address the structure, which now presents safety concerns, have been unsuccessful. The borough now will take action to have the house, which has been vacant for more than a year, demolished using the proceeds of a fire escrow account through the homeowner’s insurance company.


Bellevue Council is expected to vote next month to enter into a contract with a local company that promises to help identify delinquent taxpayers.

The matter was set to be decided at the regular council meeting on Tuesday, but solicitor Matt Racunas said he had concerns about the contract that was presented to the borough.



Armed with questions and concerns pertaining to the arrest of an elementary school music teacher, more than 40 parents attended Monday night’s regular meeting of the Avonworth School Board.



An error in the borough budget is forcing Ben Avon Council to review some of the figures and try to make adjustments to the budget that was approved in December.

At Tuesday's meeting, finance chair Richard White explained that the 2014 budget contained a double entry for money the borough receives each year from the Commonwealth -- the Liquid Fuels Tax money -- which in this case was $36,757. As the state requires a balanced budget, White said Ben Avon had two options: raise taxes or lower expenses, and "none of us want to raise taxes."


Ben Avon Council asked borough solicitor Anne Sweeney at Tuesday's meeting to review the terms of both the Shade Tree Ordinance, which is part of Ben Avon's Code of Ordinances, and the Shade Tree Commission Ordinance, as a few questions had arisen about whether some of the content was lawful.


Ben Avon Council started its year with political discord after some council members were surprised to find out that the borough would be getting a new solicitor.

New members Philip Brind'Amour, Michael Wrbas and Julian Wynncyckj were sworn in, along with re-elected council member Richard White and mayor Bob Jones.

Earl Bohn was elected president of council in a 5-2 vote, with Michael Bett and Sue Weiss opposed. White was elected vice president.


Emsworth residents may have gotten a look at how their new borough council will operate in 2014, after a surprise move Monday by the new council president will cost taxpayers thousands of dollars.

Emsworth kicked off a series of municipal reorganization meetings held Monday evening throughout the North Boroughs. After the newly- and re-elected officials were sworn in, Alex Nalevanko was elected president of council and Brian Fashian was elected vice president of council.


Will a policy requiring background checks for employees and volunteers do anything to protect Avalon residents, or will its greatest value be to comfort elected officials?

Avalon Council unanimously approved a motion at its regular meeting on Tuesday that authorizes the administrative staff and solicitor to draft a proposed employment policy that would require employees who work with children to obtain clearances indicating they have no history of child abuse or a criminal record of certain offenses.



For two months -- August and September -- the topic of establishing a shade tree commission brought heated discussions to Ben Avon Council meetings. After finally coming to an agreement in October, council advertised Ordinance 764 last month and was ready to vote on it Tuesday, when Ben Avon resident George Trent brought additional comments to the table.


Bellevue Council voted unanimously at the pre-council meeting on Tuesday to have the borough’s solicitor obtain all records related to the fire that destroyed an apartment building at 51 Lincoln Ave. in May.

The fire was investigated by both the local and county fire marshals. Both have reported the exact cause of the fire is “undetermined.” The fire is known to have started in the area of a third floor apartment where a propane grill had been placed on a balcony/fire escape along with a couch, The propane tank exploded during the fire.



Ben Avon Mayor Robert Jones commented at Tuesday's borough council meeting that he thinks council "took something simple and turned it into a legal quagmire." He was referring to the draft shade tree ordinance, which would include establishing a shade tree commission.

"This," he said, holding up two sheets of paper, "was the old ordinance. And this," he said, letting a sheaf of papers he had taped together fall to the floor in a string, "is the new ordinance."


Ben Avon solicitor Charles Means had received a question about the legality of the borough's current solicitation ordinance, which permits solicitation only from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Saturday. He researched the constitutionality of regulations restricting it to certain hours, and advised council of its options.


Bellevue Council president Linda Woshner reported at Tuesday's regular meeting on the business that had been accomplished by council in the past year, and the many events that have been offered.


After a heated discussion that had more to do with airing past grievances than debating the merits of hiring a new solicitor, Bellevue Council voted to replace the solicitor that has represented the borough for the last three years.


Not only will Bellevue be starting the new year with a new solicitor, but a new manager will be hired as well.

Director of administrative services Doug Sample notified council this week that he would resign in late January. At the same time that Bellevue Council was meeting last Monday night, Sample was being hired by the Ross Township commissioners to work as manager of the neighboring municipality.

Sample began work as Bellevue’s DAS in July of 2010.