Seeking stability, continuity and a better vision
June 18, 2014 —
Honesdale Borough government needs some stability. Since the beginning of this year alone, three borough council members and a mayor have resigned. Yes, the borough normally has its share of turnover of elected officials who ran and lost in various elections, but in the past three-and-a-half years there have been an unusual number of resignations as well as sitting council members declining to seek reelection because of problems arising either from conflict on the council or from how the town does its business. (One recalls three years ago, when the borough needed court approval for a bailout loan to address a more than $400,000 budget shortfall. And one is forced to ask, for a town with just 5,000 residents, how do things like that happen? And this is not just ancient history; the cost of the new police union’s contract will present big fiscal problems down the road for the borough.) Every time a brand new person steps in to fill a vacant council seat, there’s a learning curve that increases the challenge of achieving progress. Worse, some of the recent resignations have resulted over divisive issues that have apparently made it difficult for elected officials to work together in a collegial manner.
Since 2011, there have been three mayors—one who resigned, saying he was sick of conflicts with borough council; another who escaped by running for higher office; and the current new mayor, who’s trying to mend fences but has served for just two months. During the same several years, 10 council members resigned—two leaving to run for higher office, some leaving for personal reasons, and others quitting in frustration, disillusionment or disgust.
Last year, when the police chief resigned after accepting a school district job, a bitter fight ensued (and still festers) with the police department over council’s choice of his replacement. (A councilmember also resigned over the matter.) During the same period, council ran afoul of the state’s Sunshine Law, according to a local magistrate, by holding an executive session to hear complaints about the police department; the council appealed the ruling, and a higher court’s decision is expected any day. And then there was the dismissal of a long-time zoning officer under a cloud of suspicion, a councilmember who served time for DUI and now a councilmember who has been charged with a felony over an incident involving his business operations. (There are reports that that case may be settled.)