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Our Voice: Pursuing Papas' removal would be penny foolish

Posted 8/21/12

With all the budget matters that Middletown Borough Council has on its plate – finding new sources of money to fund the Middletown Public Library, overseeing the closing of the communications center, negotiating a new police contract, among other …

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Our Voice: Pursuing Papas' removal would be penny foolish

Posted
With all the budget matters that Middletown Borough Council has on its plate – finding new sources of money to fund the Middletown Public Library, overseeing the closing of the communications center, negotiating a new police contract, among other current tasks – a battle over the legality of the appointment of Peter Pappas, chairman of the Middletown Borough Authority, seems like a profound waste of time.

We hope it doesn’t grow into a court fight that would cost the taxpayers money.

Council voted 6-2 to remove Pappas from his position, basing the decision on the borough solicitor’s view that Pappas was illegally appointed by a lame-duck council a month before state law allows.

Steve Dzuranin, the authority’s solicitor said he’s reviewing a letter from the borough solicitor citing case law that seems to suggest Pappas’ appointment could be invalid. Dzuranin would not yet say whether the authority would concur or fight the removal.

The issue arises amid a stand-off between council and the authority over debt refinancing. Council wants to take ownership of authority-owned debt as part of a refinancing plan that would apply the deal’s savings to the principal. The authority wants to use the savings to create a fund for other authority projects. And, frankly, the authority suspects that council, which already has closed the borough’s communications center and de-funded the borough library to cut costs, has the authority in its sights – that council has an unannounced plan to eliminate the authority. Council already is considering a move to eliminate the planning commission to save about $5,000 – could the authority be next?

A legal battle over Pappas’ appointment would seem contrary to council’s efforts to cut expenses.

Pappas has a long history of public service to Middletown residents. We agree with Mayor Robert Reid that the vote to remove him is a “slap in the face’’ to Pappas. A legal battle to oust him, and the costs that go with it, would be a slap in the face to borough taxpayers as well.