Written by Jim Lewis
The public safety committee of Middletown Borough Council voted to publicly advertise a hearing in March – and subpoena witnesses to testify – on the use of police no-parking signs in a parking dispute on Poplar Street between a homeowner and the company that publishes the Press And Journal.
Council President Christopher McNamara, the committee’s new chairman, said the hearing would focus on how the signs “ended up in the hands’’ of a “private citizen.’’ The hearing date was set for March 4 during the committee’s meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 4.
The borough is not accusing the company of wrongdoing, and is investigating the use of police no-parking and street closing signs in other instances in the borough, and the process by which parking restrictions are approved and administered, said Chris Courogen, the borough’s communications director.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 10 February 2015 17:16
Written by Dan Miller
Middletown Borough Council voted 8-0 on Monday, Feb. 2 to support a request from Roberto’s Pizza to transfer a state license into the borough that would allow beer to be sold in the restaurant on South Union Street.
Jim Petrascu, a lawyer representing Roberto’s Pizza, told council during a public hearing that owner David Kitner wants to serve beer with food and also sell six packs for take-out.
The license would allow Roberto’s to sell up to two six packs of beer in a single sale on a take-out basis, Petrascu said. Kitner said the license would not allow him to sell liquor and he “doubts” if he will sell draught beer.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 10 February 2015 17:14
Written by Dan Miller
He led a “bizarre and individual life that he chose.”
That was James Francis McMeniman III, as summed up by his sister Cheryl Jenkins, during a memorial service that was held on Thursday, Feb. 5 in the chapel of the Middletown Home, where McMeniman had worked as a dishwasher in the kitchen for 11 months.
McMeniman died of smoke inhalation from a fire that broke out in his apartment in the 200 block of Lawrence St. in Middletown late Monday, Jan. 26. The fire has been ruled accidental. The cause has not been identified.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 10 February 2015 17:06
Written by Dan Miller
Middletown Borough Council voted 8-0 on Monday, Feb. 2 to apply for a state grant of up to $645,000 for renovations to the Elks Building.
The money is being sought from the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP), which is administered by the state Office of the Budget for the acquisition and construction of regional economic, cultural, civic, recreational and historical improvement projects.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 10 February 2015 17:07
Written by Dan Miller
Merriam-Webster defines “insolent” in part as “insultingly contemptuous in speech or conduct.”
Under the code of conduct that Middletown Borough Council considered on Monday, Feb. 2, being insolent could get you thrown out of a public meeting. The presiding officer of council – i.e., the council president – could determine who in the audience, or at the council table, was being insolent.
According to a copy of the proposed code obtained by the Press And Journal, you could also get thrown out for “making offensive, insulting, threatening, slanderous or obscene remarks,” or for becoming “boisterous” or for making “threats” against any person at the meeting.
One catch in the proposed code is that the presiding officer’s decision to throw someone out could be overridden by a majority vote of council, or of the committee if the situation came up at a public meeting of a council committee.
Councilor Suzanne Sullivan called for the code toward the end of a Jan. 20 council meeting that was marked by particularly testy exchanges between residents and councilors, especially council President Christopher McNamara. Sullivan said it’s fine for residents to object to council policies and decisions, but they should do so “in a respectful manner.”
Council listed the proposed code of conduct on its Feb. 2 agenda for action, but the borough did not make copies of the proposal available to the public or the media.
Several residents objected to the proposed code during the Feb. 2 comment period, including Dan Valley, who cautioned council against going down “a slippery slope” where the council president “is so controlling.”
Council voted 4-4 on whether to approve the code for public advertisement. Mayor James H. Curry III broke the tie by voting against advertising it. The mayor said it was McNamara’s disrespect – in Curry’s view – of the views of residents that is the problem. McNamara did not attend the Feb. 2 meeting due to a family emergency.
For the most part, the code appears consistent with current council practices regarding governing public meetings. There isn’t a whole lot that would be new.
One exception that could be considered a deviation from current practice is that, according to the proposed code, “in the case of a nonagenda item, citizens are requested, but not required, to present the matter to a member of the council, committee or administrative staff in an attempt to resolve the matter beforehand.”
In addition, the code would give the presiding officer the ability to cut short public comment, or defer public comment to the next meeting, if the presiding officer determines that there is “not sufficient time at the meeting” underway in order to give “equal time to all.”
At present, the borough has no written policy, resolution, or ordinance in place to govern public meetings, said borough spokesman Chris Courogen. Council has traditionally deferred to Robert’s Rules of Order, but that is all, Courogen said.
“Nobody is out to stifle anybody,” Courogen said of the proposed code. “The concern was maintaining civility and decorum in the process. It doesn’t matter who is chairing the meeting. Members of the public ought to maintain decorum when they are in the audience for the meeting.”
However, several councilors shared Curry’s view that the code is unnecessary. “When we respect them, they respect us,” Councilor Anne Einhorn said of citizens who speak during meetings.
The question of a code of conduct has been brought up before, according to Solicitor Adam Santucci, although the Jan. 20 meeting appears to be the first time it had been brought up in public.
“Other borough council members requested this in executive session,” Santucci said, adding that he had provided council with a memorandum outlining such a code at the request of former Councilor Thomas Handley.
Handley was elected to council in November 2013 and served from January 2014 until Dec. 22, when he resigned.
Just before the Feb. 2 vote, Councilor John Brubaker said that according to council minutes council had discussed a code of conduct in both June and July of 2011. Brubaker joined those on council who voted for advertising the proposed code.
However, minutes posted on the borough Web site from council meetings in June and July of 2011 include no direct reference to a code of conduct.
Sullivan did not respond to a request for comment from the Press And Journal regarding whether she has any plans to re-introduce calls for a code of conduct. Dan Miller: 717-944-4628, or
Last Updated on Tuesday, 10 February 2015 15:27