MOUNT POCONO – On August 16, Mount Pocono Borough Council attempted to conduct its first meeting in over a month after the mayor canceled two consecutive meetings.
But they didn’t get very far.
The controversy de jour was the rushed appointment of Mike Oser to fill the open seat of Tom Neville.
In the mayor’s report, interim mayor Michael Penn said, “So, shortly before I got here, I got an email, I received a resignation letter from councilman Tom Neville.”
In fact, based on emails obtained by The Boro & Towne News through the Pennsylvania Right to Know Law, it was over a month before, on July 9, when Neville emailed Penn that he would be resigning. That information was shared with only O’Boyle, Bucco, and Ron Emilie. Penn then canceled all council meetings after July 9, until the August 16 one.
It was only at the mid-August meeting that Penn told Williams, Stewart-Keeler, and Montanez about the resignation. In the interim, Penn solicited Michael Oser to take the Neville seat and, according to Emilie, they also researched whether they could immediately appoint Oser without giving anyone else a chance to put their name in. Penn and O’Boyle also kept the borough solicitor in the dark, as he said he had only learned of it at that meeting as well.
Seconds after Penn revealed Neville’s resignation, Bucco moved to appoint Oser to fill the spot.
“How are we prepared to appoint somebody when we were just notified of the resignation and members of the public have not been given a chance to express their interest in the position,” asked Montanez. Emilie, attending by telephone, shouted, “we don’t have to do that. We can do that tonight. We checked the rules. Talk to the mayor!”
The solicitor stepped in and implored O’Boyle and Penn to “not have chaos like we usually have. It’s precipitous to appoint somebody within thirty seconds of getting a letter of resignation. I think you ought to let people submit their letters of interest and at the next meeting appoint somebody.”
“We’re making the appointment tonight!” Emilie exclaimed, rejecting the advice and counsel of the borough solicitor.
When O’Boyle sought to move forward on the Oser appointment, Stewart-Keeler wanted to know, “who had the private meetings to make that decision?” O’Boyle shut down the discussion, telling her, “You’re out of order!”
Resident Debra Fulton told the council that “I don’t think the issue is who is a good person and who’s not a good person. I feel like to nominate somebody thirty seconds after a resignation does not give the council time for due diligence and for the public to have their input.”
In response, Penn falsely claimed that “80% of the time” replacements are done the night the resignation is received. No one in the room, including those with over three decades of attendance at borough meetings, can recall any time that was ever done. Penn himself was appointed to fill Fred Courtright’s spot only after an opportunity for the public to express interest and council to publicly interview interested parties.
Montanez objected to council “handing the position over to a person of favor,” supporting the appointment of one of the persons on the ballot in November. O’Boyle objected, saying it would give them an undue advantage.
Nevertheless, the majority pushed forward. O’Boyle, Bucco, and Emilie voted for Oser, Williams, Stewart-Keeler, and Montanez voted no. Since council was tied, the interim mayor was able to cast the deciding vote. Penn voted in favor of his candidate, Oser.
The appointment of Oser generated catcalls of “boo!” and “no!!” calls from residents in the audience.
Thereupon Williams, Stewart-Keeler, and Montanez, walked out of the meeting in protest, depriving the council of a quorum for the meeting. Penn, who came prepared with the oath of office, swore Oser in as a council member after the walkout. Penn asked Emilie to come into the meeting but he said he was hooked up to a feeding tube and unable to leave. Subsequently, after a nearly 30-minute delay to consult with the solicitor, the meeting was adjourned due top lack of an in-person quorum.
Previously, when Oser was nominated for the municipal authority, O’Boyle objected to his nomination because of the numerous lawsuits by Oser against the borough. Since then, he filed more.
Following the meeting, members of the audience also pointed out that the voters had rejected O’Boyle numerous times. One resident said “that’s an insult” referring to the majority’s decision to give Oser a position for which voters repeatedly rejected him. (In the last 16 years, Oser has run for office 7 times, never winning a seat, and garnering an average of just 20% of the vote.)
Oser will hold the seat until the first Monday in January, when the seat will be filled by whomever wins the special election in November for the remaining two years of Neville’s term. The county Republican Party selected Oser as their candidate on that ballot, while the Democratic Party named Ella Santiago.