Thursday, February 25, 2021

After several tries, council fails to fill vacant seat

Despite several tries, Columbia Borough Council still could not fill the seat left empty by the recent resignation of councilwoman Pam Williams. Three applicants - Ryan Sexton, Peter Stahl, and Chris Misciagna - showed up for interviews for the position Tuesday night but were not chosen. Randy Fletcher, who had also submitted a letter of intent, asked that his application be rescinded, according to council president Heather Zink.

After the six councillors flung questions at the three, several motioned to choose applicants for a vote, as follows:

Sharon Lintner made a motion to consider Chris Misciagna, but didn't receive a second.

Todd Burgard made a motion for Peter Stahl, but also did not receive a second.

Howard Stevens motioned to choose Ryan Sexton. Again, no second.

After all motions failed, borough solicitor Evan Gabel told council that it has 30 days to make an appointment and suggested making a decision at its March 2 work session. Gabel noted that council could not accept more applications in the interim, because the deadline had already been set.

[The meeting then went slightly askew with minor speechifying and feel-good chatter among councillors, as well as citizen comments:

Burgard said he wants a smaller police force, just not at this time. He said it could be achieved through economic development. He also said that residents could grow their own "socioeconomic status." Burgard said he liked that his neighbor Peter Stahl favored development at the McGinness airport property on Manor Street. (Stahl's comment was in response to councilman Eric Kauffman's interview question about the property.)

In a comment, resident Robert Misciagna told council that the question about the McGinness property should be disregarded, but two councillors disagreed with him, especially Burgard, who said he found the question to be relevant, because it shows the applicants' visions for Columbia. (Note: Misciagna's comment is valid, however, because borough officials have not been totally transparent about details of a possible purchase of the property; therefore, applicants could not possibly be informed enough to render a valid opinion.)

(Robert Misciagna is a school board director who is running for council but did not apply for the seat currently open.)]

Hoping for a better result, council tried once again to choose an applicant. Burgard again motioned to appoint Stahl. This time, the motion was seconded by Kauffman. Fran FitzGerald, Kauffman, and Burgard voted yes, for a 3-3 tie, meaning the motion failed. (Normally, the mayor breaks a tie vote, except when council chooses an applicant.)

Stevens made a motion to choose Sexton, and Zink seconded. Fitzgerald, Stevens, and Zink voted yes, once again leading to a tie. Lintner subsequently made a motion for Misciagna, with a second by Kauffman. Lintner and Kaufman were the only yes votes.

Due to lack of a decision, council tabled the issue until its March 2 meeting. The term of the open position expires on January 4, 2022.

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