Appointment draws criticism

Bellevue’s newest Council member is Michael Kendall, an electrical engineer who has spent the last 20 years working in the sales and marketing field for an equipment manufacturer. He will hold the seat until the end of the year. He also is a Republican candidate for election to a second ward council seat, with two seats to be filled in the November general election. Photo by Connie Rankin for The Citizen

A handful of Bellevue residents expressed their concern to Bellevue Council Tuesday evening over the manner in which council’s newest member was appointed two weeks before schedule.

Letters of interest to fill the vacant second ward council seat held by Matt Senvisky, who resigned effective July 1, were accepted by the borough until July 24. Council’s regular monthly meeting was held July 25, but council was under the impression that the appointment would not be made until the pre-council meeting on Aug. 8 to give everyone an opportunity to review the applicants and perhaps interview or ask questions of them.

Instead, council member Tom Fodi took advantage of the July 25 absence of council president Lynn Tennant Heffley to push through a motion to appoint Michael Kendall, one of the Republican candidates for a second ward council seat to be decided in the November general election.

A minority of council members -- Linda Woshner, Henry Lenard and Tom Hrynda -- objected to the appointment at the time, calling it “underhanded.”

Citizens who spoke at Tuesday’s meeting echoed those sentiments.

“it may have been legal,” said one resident, “but I do not feel that it was ethical.

Outside the meeting, citizens noted that Kendall had received the least votes of any of the three candidates running in the second ward primary, and that one of the other candidates, Anthony DiTullio, had already volunteered and used his professional IT experience to advise the borough on technology upgrades that were needed.

Heffley waited until the end of the meeting to make the following statement about the action, and about comments made by Fodi at the July 25 meeting that questioned her commitment because she was absent from the meeting.

“I would like to express my disappointment in council’s decision to fill the second ward vacancy at the July council meeting.

“It had been discussed at the pre-council meeting in July, that the position would not be filled until the August pre-council meeting. This would allow for all applications to be received and allow Council time to review them. The DAS was instructed to put the appointment on the August agenda.

“It would also allow a full council to vote on the replacement, as I had already informed Council that I would be on vacation. Council had 45 days to fill the vacancy and there were no pressing issues that would require a quick appointment.

“Instead, Mr. Fodi, who prides himself on his “transparency”, introduced a motion to fill the vacancy and at the same time, made an offensive comment that if I were dedicated or committed to Council, I would be in attendance. It is ironic that other council members’ dedication and attendance are never questioned.

“I am a lifelong resident of this borough, a teacher who has dedicated her life to the children of this borough, and an involved citizen who has more years serving this community than you’ve been alive Mr. Fodi.

“While your action may have been legal, it stinks of politics and is certainly not transparent.”

Council member Kathy Coder was absent from the pre-council meeting.