Middletown Borough Council appointed Mike Bowman to a First Ward vacancy on council on Tuesday, Jan. 20 – and some councilors cited a letter of support penned by state Rep. John D. Payne and sent to council as a factor in their decision. The Press And Journal asked Payne for comment afterward. This is the Jan. 22 letter he sent to the newspaper:
I am writing this letter in regards to the Jan. 20 Middletown Borough Council meeting.
When I spoke to Mike Bowman, roughly between Christmas and New Year’s, he indicated there were only two candidates running for the First Ward position and one of the candidates did not live in the ward. Mike Bowman incidated to me he was going to get the appointment.
Therefore at his request, on Jan. 6 I wrote a letter on behalf of Mike Bowman for the vacant seat in the First Ward of Middletown Borough. I have enclosed a copy for your review. As you can see, nowhere in the letter did I use the words “highly recommend’’ or “recommend for the appointment to Middletown Borough Council.’’ I only suggested that Mike Bowman’s credentials be reviewed.
I am disappointed that, according to a recent news article, Chris McNamara took the opportunity to make this an issue and implied the reason why Middletown Borough Council appointed Mike Bowman was because I have secured in excess of $3 million in state funds for Middletown Borough. The inference is that I acquired the money in return for Mike Bowman’s appointment. I resent Chris McNamara insinuating a pay-for-play occurred.
Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, some of the funding I secured for Middletown Borough was before Chris McNamara was elected. The appointment should have been made on the merits of the candidates and not how much funding I was able to secure for Middletown Borough.
Regardless of who is on council, the board of supervisors or commissioners in any of the seven municipalities which I represent, I will continue to work to bring as many tax dollars as possible back to our district.
I have worked hard the past 12 years as your state representative to bring integrity and openness to my job. I have never missed a day of work or a vote on the House floor during these 12 years. For it to appear that I support one person’s views on the council over another’s is not true.
I don’t normally become involved in local issues or write letters to the media; however, I felt that due to Chris McNamara’s actions it was necessary to write this letter and set the record straight.
Rep. John D. Payne
The Press And Journal asked Councilor Mike Bowman, Council President Chris McNamara and Chris Courogen, the borough's director of communications, if they wanted to respond to Payne’s letter. Courogen told the Press And Journal that he could not respond on behalf of McNamara regarding the issue. McNamara did not respond.
This is Bowman’s response:
Bowman said he spoke to an assistant in Payne's Hershey office, but didn't speak personally to Payne until Jan. 7, a day after the date on the letter to council. Bowman said he told Payne's assistant that three people were in the running for the seat, not two.
"I deny making those statements to John Payne, absolutely deny it. I didn't speak to him between Christmas and New Year's," Bowman said.
"I didn't need John's letter" to win the appointment, Bowman said. He said that his experience and background secured his appointment. "As far as my having the pull with John Payne to bring millions of dollars into Middletown, that is absurd," he said.