Council members left out of solicitor choice

Taking office in Ben Avon Monday night were, from left,: seated, Mayor Bob Jones and new council president Earl Bohn; standing, council members Richard White, Julian Wynncyckyj, M8ichael Wrbas and Philip Brind’Amour. Photo by Connie Rankin for The Citizen

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.

Bohn asked for a motion to hire a new law firm as the borough's solicitor, specifically Brimmeier and Associates. He said that the appointment had the potential to cut Ben Avon's legal fees in half, and eliminated any potential conflicts of interest, as the borough's last solicitor had represented two neighboring municipalities.

Council member Sue Weiss, however, said that she had never been told that council would be looking at a new solicitor, had no idea the appointment would be made at Monday's meeting, and did not like voting without having interviewed the potential solicitor and reviewing the firm's background and experience.

"I was not at all advised prior to this meeting," Weiss said.

Bohn said that he had met attorney Anne Sweeney, a Ben Avon resident, while campaigning during the last election, and that he and White had then met with the firm. Sweeney was present at the meeting and said that her firm has five municipal clients, including Penn Hills, Ross Township, North Versailles Township and the borough of Zelienople. She said that the firm will charge $90 an hour.

The vote to appoint the new solicitor was 5-2, with Weiss and Bett opposed.

Weiss stated: "I hope that the process we use in Ben Avon in the future will be more collaborative than what I've seen here tonight."

Bohn then named his committee chairs: Wrbas for public safety, Wynncyckyj for public works, White for administration, and Brind'Amour for a newly created public affairs position.

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