Shown below is a letter from the Lancaster County District Attorney's Office to the Columbia Borough manager addressing an alleged violation of the Pennsylvania Sunshine Act by the Borough of Columbia. Columbia Spy obtained the letter through a right-to-know request submitted to Columbia Borough's Open Records Officer. The alleged violation occurred sometime between two budget meetings held November 1 and November 7 of last year in which a vote to fund a newly created full-time Property Inspector position was taken privately. A candidate was approved for the position at the October 8, 2018 borough council meeting by unanimous vote. At the November 1 budget meeting, however, council found it might not able to pay the employee's salary. Subsequently, funding was approved in a 6-1 vote at the aforementioned private meeting - a possible Sunshine Act violation.
Resident Sharon Lintner questioned the vote at the November 12, 2018 regular Columbia Borough Council meeting. A transcript is shown below:
Council President Kelly Murphy: "Citizen comments, agenda items only. We have two sign-ups. The first one is Sharon Lintner."
Sharon Lintner: "I want to talk to agenda item 10b: Advertising the 2019 budget. November 1st the last budget meeting that wasn’t the last, because then you put an extra one in November 7th. So when we arrived at the November 7th budget meeting, council president Murphy, you did say that there had been a 6-1 vote taken and you had already somehow found the money between the first, November 1 meeting, and the next meeting Nov 7 to fund the position for property inspector. Can you tell me who the no vote was on that? That was a private vote so we don’t..."
Murphy: “Umm, it was a personnel decision, does it matter?"
Lintner: "I don’t see how that can be personnel if...what exactly was the vote for again?"
Murphy: “Whether or not we wanted to continue, whether we wanted to move forward with hiring the person."
Lintner: "With hiring the person or funding the position?"
Lintner: "So how - if they were - I still don’t understand how that's personnel if the candidate hasn’t been hired or the position hasn’t been funded. It can’t be a personnel issue until after the voting, right? If you can’t fund it, how can you hire them? So should that vote have been taken in private?"
Murphy : “Yes."
Lintner: "Ok, all right, so you're not going to say who it was. It differs from the vote for him October 8th at the council meeting. At the public meeting, it was unanimous and then it was 6-1, so in four weeks someone changed their mind about either funding it or hiring him, but you’re not going to say why or how."