Official fires back

It was time for the tables to turn at Bellevue Council’s meeting Tuesday evening, as council member Jane Braunlich decided to answer criticisms and correct statements by other elected officials.

Her response had an unexpected effect, as former public works supervisor Tony Barbarino challenged Braunlich’s husband to “step outside” during the meeting.

Braunlich’s statements were prompted by recent criticism from Mayor George Doscher that spanned issues going back to council’s failure to give his son a summer job last year.

First, however, Braunlich and council president Linda Woshner corrected council member Kathy Coder’s allegation at last month’s meeting that the borough had lost a TreeVitalize grant because council had approved the purchase of evergreens to be planted along the Memorial Park cinder lot where trees had been removed by the borough.

Woshner and Braunlich said that a TreeVitalize representative said that the failings with Bellevue’s grant application included the fact that the borough had logged Memorial Park for profit, did not have an ordinance governing trees, and did not have a tree commission.

Woshner said that Bellevue is now working with TreeVitalize and the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy to address those issues so that Bellevue would be eligible for grants in the future that could be used to plant trees at Memorial Park, along Lincoln Avenue, and elsewhere in the borough.

Braunlich went on to rebut the mayor’s repeated allegations that she had kept his son, as well as the son of council member Frank Camello from getting summer public works jobs. Braunlich said that she had pulled the original resolution naming the applicants recommended by the public works supervisor and the director of administrative services, as well as the minutes from the public works committee meeting. Neither indicated that Doscher or Camello had been selected in the first round, she said. Their names were not added to the potential hire list until after their fathers had complained about it, Braunlich said.

The DPW supervisor in question, Tony Barbarino, was in attendance at Tuesday’s meeting. Barbarino resigned last month after council launched an investigation into complaints that he was taking unauthorized compensatory time even though he was a salaried department head.

“Jane, you just want to twist everything,” Barbarino said, and maintained that he had recommended at least Doscher’s son from the very beginning.

As a clearly angry Barbarino returned to his seat from the visitors’ podium, he apparently caught the eye of Braunlich’s husband, Mike Braunlich, who was sitting in the audience at the other side of the room.

“What are you looking at?” Barbarino asked Mike Braunlich.

“You,” Mike Braunlich responded, at which point Barbarino stood back up and asked him if he wanted to “step outside.”

“Oh, you did not just threaten my husband,” Jane Braunlich interjected, at which point Woshner brought the meeting back to order.

Braunlich also responded to allegations that she and other council members were being partial to their friends in making decisions for the borough. Braunlich pointed out several connections between current and prior council members that had never drawn criticism. The borough paid $35,000 more than necessary to hire a swimming pool management company owned by a friend of Coder’s and former council member Lisa Blaney-Stewart’s, she said. The streetscape design contract was awarded to a higher bidder, she said, which was the employer of another friend of Coder’s, Brad Hazelwood. All of these people and/or their relatives were involved in Coder’s state house political campaign last year, Braunlich said.

She also corrected Doscher’s statement at last month’s meeting that bond funds had never been used to pay for paving alleys. The statement came after Coder objected to the borough paving alleys, saying that it would set a precedent for the future that would prompt residents all over the borough to want the borough to take care of alleys. Braunlich said at that time that the borough had always paved alleys, and in fact had used bond funds to do so, a claim refuted by Doscher. A review of borough records, Braunlich said, indicates that more than $400,000 in bond funds was spent for street paving in 2004, and that the list of streets paved included alleys.

Coder said that elected officials are taught from the beginning that people “can say anything about you,” and officials just have to take it.

“In defending yourself, you slandered me,” Coder said.

Doscher and Camello were not present at the meeting. Also absent were Mark Helbling and Lynn Tennant Heffley.

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