Dormont Mayor Tom Lloyd confronted borough solicitor Deron Gabriel at last night's crowded council meeting regarding accusations levied against him last week by a former resident.
During last week's council meeting, Mary Pitcher, of Scott, accused Mr. Gabriel of inappropriately contacting New Sun Rising, the sponsor of her non-profit organization that seeks to build a skate park in Dormont, to complain about partisan political signs displayed in the window of Mrs. Pitcher's antique shop along West Liberty Avenue. Mrs. Pitcher said she considered Mr. Gabriel's actions an underhanded attempt to get the foundation stripped of its non-profit status.
Mr. Gabriel responded that he contacted the non-profit sponsor "in an effort to protect Ms. Pitcher and New Sun Rising by allowing this 501(c)(3) an opportunity to comply with the IRS regulations prohibiting partisan political activity."
He said residents who were planning to file a formal complaint against Mrs. Pitcher had brought the issue to his attention. He said he simply passed along the information because he felt it was his responsibility as an officer of the court to bring what he perceived as legal infractions to light.
Mayor Lloyd last night repeatedly questioned Mr. Gabriel about the identity of the concerned members of the community who initially brought the issue to his attention. It had been speculated that these concerned citizens actually were members of council.
When asked directly whether members of council were involved, Mr. Gabriel said "I was provided information from members of the community, Dormont residents."
Mayor Lloyd responded, "It bothers me that you would take direction from members of the community to do something like that. It seems to me that you've overstepped your role as a solicitor ... since you won't say who actually directed you to do that, and if you're going to stick to your statement that it was done by members of the community, then it seems to me that's not the role of a solicitor. And I just believe that was wrong."
Mayor Lloyd then asked that in the future if a private citizen presented Mr. Gabriel with a complaint, he bring the matter to all members of the council before taking any personal action.
According to council member Laurie Malka, council is planning further investigation into the matter.
Freelance writer Zak Koeske can be reached in care of firstname.lastname@example.org .