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Media Borough Council Votes February 17th, 2011 – “New Blood” on commissions

Feb 18

[Editor’s Note: This article was updated on April 21st, 2011 to make a correction.]

Media Borough Council met at 7:30 PM on Thursday, February 17th, 2011. The contested issues of the meeting were surrounding the appointments to the boards and commissions of Media, which has recently been changed. Town Talk reported on this on February 8th. Peter Williamson was absent from the meeting.

At the beginning of the meeting, Patrolman Robert Brown received the John Davidson Police Officer of the Year award, and expressed his thanks and noted the award was especially valued because he was nominated by his peers.

The controversy

There was much discussion by both sides of the issue regarding the process by which the new candidates were elected. Dawn Roe stated that, at best, they have asked volunteers for their patience, and:

An improved and more solid policy has to trump inconvenience … No one has been disrespected, no one has been … you know, thrown overboard, this is all about, to me, an improved policy that needs to be fixed … At the end of the day, it’s all about qualifications and you can’t in good consciense have people who are well qualified, well suited and energetic and willing to serve passed aside and not given that opportunity because of perhaps longevity that other people have had in that position.

Eric Stein retorted by thanking all the volunteers who donated their time, and indicating that all candidates are well qualified, but in opposition to the way the policy was changed “mid stream” he would vote based on the previous policy, which would reinstate the incumbents.

Dawn Roe indicated that this was not happening in the middle of a 3 or 5 year term, but was happening at the beginning of the term, and reiterated her point that all they were asking was for current members for “patience” for 6 or 7 weeks, and was happening close enough to the beginning of a term where it’s completely legitimate and understandable.

In terms of partisanship, of the four contested positions, all candidates favored by President Peter Alyanakian, Vice President Monika Rehoric, and Councilman Jim Cunningham were to replace incumbents with members of the Republican party.

Robert G. Yosua, ex-chairman of the Planning Commission, spoke at the end of the meeting and pleaded with council members to have a conversation with him regarding his policies. He also discussed that years of experience on the Planning Commission provided ample historic experience and qualifications for the job.

“To suggest that merely getting new blood and new faces – that policy debate – should not be discussed in a vacuum. I mean, Ms. Roe, I wish you would have called me. Ms. Rehoric, I wished you would have called me… Engaging in the public discourse … that is what was lost in this process.”

Later in the meeting, Media, PA News asked each council member who voted in favor of new candidates whether they had interviewed the six candidates for Zoning Hearing Board and Planning Commission:

Jim Cunningham: “I know the individuals… um … I’m acquainted with those individuals. I was acquainted with the service of the people who didn’t get reappointed and in my best judgment based on my overall conception of it.”

Media, PA, News: “So, you didn’t talk to any of them individually about their qualifications, or anything like that?”

Jim Cunningham: “I didn’t have to interview every person.”

Media, PA News: “I’m just asking a simple question – did you speak to them about the new position at all?”

Jim Cunningham: “I said I knew the people … I knew their background and I made a choice as to whom I felt would best serve the positions they were appointed to.”

Monika Rehoric: “Basically the same answer – I know almost all the people and no, I did not interview them personally.”

Media, PA News: “Which ones didn’t you know?”

Monika Rehoric: “Mr. Pennoni. But I did read his resumé and it was very clear that he was…”

Media, PA News: “So you voted for him without ever speaking with him?”

Monika Rehoric: “Correct.”

Pete Alyanakian: “Same. I’ve spoken to Mr. Pennoni, Mr. Pileggi, Mr. Cavanagh numerous times about these positions, and was very familiar with the other three candidates who have currently served on the board.”

Dawn Roe: “I didn’t speak to anyone. I read all of their information. I was provided with their resumés … I never got any information from Bob [Robert G. Yosua] nor did I get any from Stacy [Benson] but I knew enough about her  service and certainly was able to incorporate that and the institutional wisdom that comes along with it … their tenure. I know Paul [Cavanagh], I know Kitty [McFarland], and uh, everyone else’s resume and information I had more than enough to make what I felt was a very solid decision.”

There was a contentious argument between Stacy Benson and Dawn Roe afterward regarding “diversity” where Stacy Benson brought up the concept of “diversity”, and Dawn Roe took offense:

“The diversity question you brought up I find insanely offensive … If you are in any way insinuating that any of this by any person on this council or by any other group within this borough would ever make a decision based on that kind of criteria is absurd. And that, by definition to me tells me that you’re not qualified to serve.”

Benson: “I think the boards should represent the population that lives here.”

Afterward, Paul Cavanagh asked the two Democrats present if they had interviewed all 6 candidates (Zoning Hearing Board and Planning Commission) as well for the record, to which Councilman Stein replied that his vote was:

“… in response to the change in policy midstream not because of any particular … I’ve made very clear I think there was a commitment made to the candidates .. I felt we should follow through on the commitments made in November … nothing personal to any candidates who are eminently qualified … and I want to encourage people to continue to volunteer…  There are lots of ways to create this organizationally,  to create continuity and vibrancy … We did not spend significant time having that discourse about changes in a policy that affects the town and affects the outcome on many many levels in the neighborhoods, I think is unfortunate… and I voted because … from a process perspective, I think it’s poorly done. So my voting on that was based accordingly.”

Councilwoman Simpson replied:

Mr. Cavanagh and Mr. Pileggi and Mr. Pinnoni if he’s listening, I have to say that my vote, especially along with Dr. Stein’s was on the process. The process was ill-conceived, it was poorly planned  and the change in policy was horribly executed and that is the reason …”

Mr. Cavanagh: “I’m not questioning the vote, I’m just saying …”

Ms. Simpson: ” You asked and I am trying to explain that my vote was a stand against the way the policy was rolled out.”

Mr. Cavanagh: “I appreciate that. I’m not questioning the vote … I’m just questioning why the members who voted for me were questioned , “did you interview him?” because the ones who voted against me didn’t interview me or call me.”

Finally, Ernie Derrickson, a former Borough Council member, spoke on a variety of topics, but mentioned that Paul Cavanagh’s claim that he has not served on any boards or commissions was untrue, and said the he had served on the emergency management commission.

Update: On April 21st, 2011, Paul Cavanagh corrected the above statement, indicating that he had been nominated for the position, but had not been appointed.

In particular, the following were contested positions:

Vacancy Board

The Vacancy Board consists of a single member whose job it is to fill in for any member of council, the mayor, or any other position where a sudden death or disability prevents that person from fulfilling their obligation to the borough. It is largely a position in name only, as it has not been used in the past 12 years according to Pete Alyanakian, Borough Council President.

The two candidates nominated, and the members who were in favor of them were:

  • Bill Tyson
    • In favor: Jim Cunningham, Monika Rehoric, Pete Alyanakian
    • Against: Eric Stein, Monica Simpson, Dawn Roe, Bob McMahon (tie-breaker)
  • Joan Hagan
    • In favor: Eric Stein, Monica Simpson, Dawn Roe, Bob McMahon (tie-breaker)
    • Against: Jim Cunningham, Monika Rehoric, Pete Alyanakian

Joan Hagan was appointed with Bob McMahon serving as the tie-breaking vote.

Zoning Hearing Board

From the Media Borough Website: “The Zoning Hearing Board hears and decides appeals where it is alleged that the Borough Code Enforcement Officer has failed to follow prescribed procedure or has misinterpreted or misapplied any provision of the Zoning Code. The Zoning Hearing Board also determines if a special exception and/or variance from the zoning ordinance is appropriate.”

There were four candidates for two open positions on this board. Votes were 4-2 for the following candidates, with Eric Stein and Monica Simpson against:

The two incumbent members were:

Planning Commission

The Planning Commission presents and makes recommendations to the governing body concerning zoning ordinances, comprehensive plans, subdivisions, land development, building codes and housing codes of the Borough of Media.

Voting similarly as the Zoning Hearing Board (4-2 along “party” lines), current chairperson Robert G. Yosua was ousted for “new blood” Vince Pennoni of Pennoni Associates.

Other business

The general business which was passed unanimously by Borough Council:

  • Approval of a mass gathering permit for the Town Talk Spring Super Sunday event on Sunday April 10th, 2011
  • Approval of a mass gathering permit for the Town Talk 46th Annual Media Art Show on Sunday June 5th, 2011
  • Appointment to the Media Business Authority of Deborah Pitt and Rachel Waere-Tarbutton
  • Acceptance of a $1400 proposal from Schnabel Engineering to inspect the 3rd Street Dam
  • Acceptance of Resolution #2011-02 adopting document management policies set forth for document disposal
  • Sale of a borough owned 1997 Ford Explorer for $2200
  • Acceptance of a 5 year contract from J.P. Mascaro and Sons for recycling pick up
  • Handicapped Parking Permit for 308 Vernon Street
  • Acceptance of a bank deposit agreement with Byrn Mawr Trust
  • Road Salt Contract Participation Agreement with the state of Pennsylvania for $71/ton of salt
  • Acceptance of a copier lease agreement for another 4 years
  • Extension of the agreement with Zommick-McMahon for the sale of 1 West State Street


  1. Chickadee /

    The impulse to keep committees fresh and energized with new ideas would be a good one, but this closed, rigged, rushed process betrays the true motivation behind the “New Coalition’s” motivation — it’s political.

    It’s such a disappointment to see that party politics as usual and doublespeak rule in a great little town like Media.

    Thanks to Media, PA News for bringing this to light and for your great questions — how else would we know that any of this nonsense is going on?!?

  2. Debbie Krull /

    The process (for me at least) is only a part of it. It is also about the people and volunteers that served the Borough and the poor and disrespectful treatment that they received.

    Some members of Council claim their “independence” from party politics as usual. If they wanted to be truly “independent” and if their votes were truly about putting the right people in the positions, then they should have, at least, taken the time to contact the sitting appointees and discussed their decision process with them. That is what being an elected borough councilperson is all about – connecting with the constituents on decisions that affect them and making sure that you have all the information you need to make a rational decision.

    I am most saddened and disappointed by the unfortunate message that was sent to the residents of the Borough. It seems that to some members on Council one’s effectiveness on a Board or Commission is immaterial and a volunteer is subject to removal with little notice or justification. I hope last night’s unfortunate events do not prevent residents from getting involved in the Borough.

  3. David J. Palmer /

    The hunta has struck again. Using the same moronic, nonreality based excuses they did for the coup the republicanistas in typical fashion after stealing the council Presidency start stuffing positions with cronies.
    How very Rovian. How very republican.

  4. Monica Simpson /

    I would like to add the written statement provided by Mr. Peter Williamson which I read during the discussion/comment section of voting on these appointments to the Zoning Hearing Board and the Planning Commission.

    Peter Wiliamson wrote, “I have spoken with the three applicants who applied for the positions (Vince Pennoni, Ryan Pileggi, and Dave Petrucci). They are all qualified and I have no doubt they would serve well. However, the three sitting individuals are also well qualified and have indicaed their desire to stay on for another term. The President of Council has forced this unfortunate competition upon six well-meaning citizens by insisting on changing the Council policy in the middle of the process, instead of giving time for Council to adopt a well-considered policy on reappointments that might, for instance, include term limits, selection procedures and better advertising of upcoming openings, and that could be implemented in plenty of time for the next round of reappointments at the end of 2011.
    I am disheartened the Council is forced to make this unnecessary choice at a time when other boards have unfilled positions, but must recommend the reappointments of the sitting individuals. I explained my position to the three applicants and, while they are disappointed that I wasn’t in favor of their immediate nomination, all understood and simply have a desire to serve Media when the opportunity arises.”

  5. Brian Hall /

    I’m a bit late to this conversation, but I’d like to add a few observations.

    First, there is a strong argument in favor of the previous policy on reappointments to Borough boards and commissions. I haven’t heard it made; it should be. Under the previous policy, members of boards/commissions whose terms were nearing completion were sent an “opt-out” letter. In other words, unless the member affirmatively declined reappointment, the Borough understood that the member wanted to continue. The invitation to reappointment was not automatic, however. Under the previous policy, it was assumed that the responsible Council liaison would discuss with board/commission leadership whether a particular member’s continued service was desired or not. It also was assumed that the Council liaison had attended the meetings of the board/commission and had evaluated each member’s contributions. If the board/commission leadership, or the Council liaison, felt that a change was needed, then the “opt-out” letter would not be sent until after discussion at a Council workshop meeting. And, if Council agreed not to send the letter, then Council would solicit letters of interest. In my opinion, the previous policy allowed Council the flexibility to maintain continuity and to introduce fresh blood, where appropriate.

    Second, what are the specifics of the new policy? As I understand it, Council will solicit letters of interest any time that a board/commission term expires. But what input will the board/commission head or other members of the board/commission have in the selection process? How will the desire or need for continuity be weighed in the decision to appoint a candidate? How will the desire or need for leadership be weighed when the member whose term is expiring is an officer of the board/commission? The proponents of the new policy have left these questions unaddressed.

    In short, a majority of Council made a significant policy change without explaining how the previous policy fell short. In my opinion, it didn’t. That same majority did not involve the public in a meaningful way and gave little thought to the specifics of their new policy. Unfortunately, this lack of transparency and thoughtfulness weakens confidence in our local government.