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June 25, 2016
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Honesdale council members found guilty; subpoena for judge quashed

Attorneys for both sides objected to the fact that the subpoena for Judge Ted Mikulak had been quashed, and that the judge would not be testifying during the proceeding. But testimony regarding a complaint lodged by the judge against the acting police chief of Honesdale, Ronald Kominski, was among the most interesting of the proceeding.

The hearing in Hawley on October 8 involved accusations against the seven members of the Honesdale Borough Council and whether they violated the sunshine law with their treatment of the complaint against Kominski.

According to the testimony of Honesdale Mayor Ed Langendoerfer, Mikulak had requested assistance from Kominski. Langendorfer testified, “The judge wanted Kominski to kick some tenant out of the house. Kominski said he can’t do that; they have 15 days to get out.”

The complaint came after that and also involved an officer, presumably Kominski, telling an 11-year-old child that the judge was “a liar” and the child repeating that information to the judge.

The attorney representing Kominski, Michael Lehutsky, attempted to solicit more information about the nature of the complaint lodged by the judge, but those attempts were blocked by the attorney representing the council members, Michael Genello. He argued that such questions were outside the scope of the proceeding.

Interestingly, however, there has been friction between Mikulak and the Honesdale Police Department dating back at least to March, when an administrative order was signed by President Judge Raymond Hammill transferring all Honsdale police legal matters out of Mikulak’s office and into the office of Judge Ron Edwards.

This case would normally have been heard by Mikulski, but because of his involvement, and because his brother is a member of the borough council, the case was transferred to Judge Bonnie Carney.

The question before her was whether the council members violated Kominski’s rights when they discussed Mikulak’s complaint at the August 12 borough meeting.

According to Lehutsky, because of the Sunshine Act, Kominski had a right to know in advance if a complaint about him was going to be discussed in executive session and he had a right to choose whether he wanted to have the matter discussed in open court or in executive session.

Because the executive session about Kominski was scheduled at the last minute, with at least some members unaware it was happening, Kominski was not informed about the complaint. He testified that had he known about it, he would have chosen to have the matter addressed publicly.

Genello, on the other hand, argued that the fact that the borough council president, F.J. Monaghan, offered Kominsky an opportunity to have the matter discussed in open session or executive session after the initial complaint was discussed in executive session was enough to satisfy the sunshine law.

Langendorder testified that in his position as mayor, he serves as liaison between the council and the police department. He said that he expressed his concern three times that evening that the executive session was improper because Mikulski was not present and did not have a chance to defend himself.

It was noted that Kominski filed his complaint against the council members two days after they chose another person to fill the position of police chief, for which Kominski had applied.

The defendants were found guilty and face fines of $100 plus additional court costs.