SHARON Mayor, city council tangle over snow removal funds
The mayor said council's comments bordered on accusing him of criminal activity.
By HAROLD GWIN
VINDICATOR SHARON BUREAU
SHARON, Pa.-- City council finally paid a $68,000 bill for winter road salt Sharon couldn't cover in its budget, but the approval strained already tenuous relations between council and Mayor David O. Ryan.
There were accusations of budget padding and improper spending against the mayor and Finance Director Michael Gasparich from some members of council and a response from the mayor that, should council feel he's done anything illegal, they should take it up with the Mercer County district attorney.
The dispute can be traced back to a harsh winter that resulted in Sharon's spending $140,000 more than council had budgeted for snow removal. The city was able to cover all but $68,000 of that amount, and Ryan and Gasparich asked at two previous meetings for budget transfers to pay the bill.
Council turned down both requests, the last time expressing irritation that the budget appeared to be padded in several areas because Gasparich was able to come up with transfers from 22 different accounts to cover the transfers.
Ryan said at the time that the transfers could leave some of those 22 accounts short by year's end and that other transfers might be needed to replenish them.
Those same transfers were on council's agenda again Thursday, and this time council approved them, but not without some harsh words.
"I don't ever want to get in this kind of mess again," said Councilman George Gulla, warning the mayor and Gasparich not to spend money they don't have.
Councilman Lou Rotunno repeated earlier concerns that there had been money hidden in the budget that council didn't know about.
"I won't stand for this phoniness in the budget," he said.
President Fred Hoffman said Ryan had announced publicly that the vote against the transfers at a special April 7 council meeting was irresponsible, but he feels that it is Ryan and Gasparich who have been irresponsible for overspending the budget. They should have asked for budget transfers in January when the problem first surfaced, he said.
Further, if council had approved the transfers April 7, Hoffman said, he was told by city Treasurer Rick Fragle that the city didn't have the money to pay the bill at that point.
Ryan disputed that.
"There would have been money ... to pay that bill Aug. 1 or 2," he said.
He defended both himself and Gasparich, saying they are making an honest effort to run the city with what is available. He said some of council's comments border on accusing him of a criminal act.
"I don't lie to anybody. I'll put my reputation up against anybody," Ryan said, adding that everyone has to work together to deal with the city's problems.