Monroeville solicitor defends veto of interim manager salary

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Monroeville interim manager Lynette McKinney, appointed after the sudden resignation of former manager Jeff Silka last month, isn't being paid for the job she's doing.

Mayor Greg Erosenko on Feb. 12 vetoed Ms. McKinney's $86,808 salary, saying that salary, when added to the $67,500 and seven months of benefits to be paid to Mr. Silka as part of his severance package, "exceeds the approved salary and benefits package for the manager position for fiscal year 2013."

Ms. McKinney is being paid $51,932, which is what she was making as a municipal secretary, her previous position.

Some question Mr. Erosenko's right to veto Ms. McKinney's pay. Councilwoman Lois Drumheller said the municipality's home rule charter gives the mayor the right to veto only ordinances, and the vote to promote Ms. McKinney from secretary to interim manager and the salary hike commensurate with the promotion was not in an ordinance.

"That was a motion," Ms. Drumheller said. "That wasn't advertised as an ordinance."

But municipal solicitor Bruce Dice said the Pennsylvania Borough Code supersedes Monroeville's home rule charter. He said any expenditure of money by the municipality has to be approved by the mayor.

"If it's a legislative act such as the contracting of someone to perform a service, that [can be vetoed] by the mayor," Mr. Dice said.

Ms. Drumheller disagrees that the borough code supersedes the charter and said she "would like to have proof positive" that the mayor has the right to veto Ms. McKinney's salary.

Others have speculated that the mayor's veto was in retaliation for a harassment complaint Ms. McKinney filed against the mayor with Mr. Silka in July.

Ms. McKinney said Mr. Erosenko told her, among other things, that she "better have an explanation or I'm going to take your head off" and to "fly below the radar or you may not have a job at the end of this."

Mr. Erosenko declined to comment on the allegations, saying he didn't want to "add to the circus."

Mr. Erosenko said he vetoed the salary because it put the municipality "way over what was budgeted for 2013."

Councilwoman Diane Allison noted that if Monroeville hired an interim manager from outside the municipal workforce, that person would have to be paid.

"If someone's doing a job, you have to pay them to do the job," she said, adding that she believes "100 percent" that the veto of Ms. McKinney's salary is related to the harassment complaint.

The harassment complaint and the mayor's veto have added to tensions in the municipality, which has been reeling since the resignation of Mr. Silka and the subsequent demotion of police Chief Doug Cole amid allegations that a bloc of council members gave Mr. Silka an ultimatum: Remove the police chief, or we'll fire you.

Residents have packed council chambers for public meetings over the past few weeks, chastising council for lacking transparency, questioning the motives of elected officials and demanding now-Sgt. Cole be reinstated as chief.

And another controversy is brewing: The municipality last week received the OK from a Common Pleas Court judge to increase its millage rate above the windfall amount allowed by law following property reassessments in Allegheny County and is slated to vote on it during a special meeting to be held at 7 p.m. March 7 in council chambers.

Municipal governments are allowed to collect up to 5 percent in additional real estate tax revenue this year as a result of countywide property reassessments. Most municipalities lowered their rates to remain revenue-neutral.

Monroeville's tax rate is currently 2.2 mills. To remain revenue neutral, the municipality would have to lower the rate to 1.8 mills, but the municipality says it needs to raise the rate to as much as 2.431 mills to cover its expenses.

The court approval allows the municipality to raise the rate to 2.431 mills, but no higher, Ms. McKinney said. If council approves the higher rate at next Thursday's meeting, it would be the first tax hike since 1991.

neigh_east

Annie Siebert: asiebert@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1613. Twitter: @AnnieSiebert.


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