Council meeting “screeches” to halt

The Bellevue Council meeting came to a screeching -- literally -- halt not long after it started Tuesday evening, with a recess called as a final effort to stop yet another tirade by the borough’s mayor.

The incident started calmly enough when Mayor George Doscher asked why he had not been informed in advance of an executive session held by council last Monday to discuss a personnel matter.

Executive sessions are meetings from which the public is excluded, held to discuss only a handful of subjects as defined by state law, among them litigation and personnel matters.

Council president Linda Woshner said that the decision to hold the executive session had been made during another executive session held following a public meeting, and that a formal notice to all officials may have been forgotten given that the borough is working with only a part-time interim manager. Doscher, however, maintained that even the acting manager had not been notified.

Council member Lynn Tennant Heffley said that she also had not been notified of the executive session because she had been absent from the earlier meeting.

Woshner said that the oversight would be addressed for any future meetings.

Doscher said that he wanted to discuss in public additional problematic behavior. He said that it was revealed during the executive session -- which he did not attend -- that council member Jim Viscusi had been following and videotaping a borough employee suspected of being at home during work hours.

At that point both Woshner and solicitor Patricia McGrail cautioned the mayor that he could not publicly disclose information from an executive session. Doscher, however, said that he was not going to discuss the employee’s actions, but those of Viscusi and Woshner, who he said possibly knew of Viscusi’s videotaping.

“That’s not their job,” he said.

Doscher maintained that filming employees would “destroy morale” and any suspicions about misbehavior by an employee should have been turned over to the director of administrative services to be investigated and handled.

Woshner began pounding the gavel to stop the mayor from continuing the discussion, which resulted only in louder talking by the mayor. At the advice of the solicitor, Woshner then called upon police chief Matt Sentner to escort the mayor from the council chambers. Sentner did not immediately respond to two demands by Woshner to have the mayor removed, although he later called a police officer to the council chambers.

Woshner then called a recess and she and Viscusi left the chambers. Council members Heffley and Jane Braunlich remained behind, and Braunlich clarified that it was her understanding that no one had actually been “followed.” Rather, she said, an employee was filmed at his/her house during the work day.

When council reconvened about 10 minutes later, they adjourned to an executive session to discuss a matter of potential litigation.

Council member Sue Viscusi participated in the meeting by telephone. Kathy Coder, Mark Helbling, Frank Camello and Jim Scisciani were absent.


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