CHARLEROI – Former borough mayor Nancy Ellis was appointed to fill an open seat on council Thursday during a meeting filled with tense discussions.
Before Ellis could be sworn in, Randy DiPiazza, whose term she will fulfill, got into a shouting match with council President Jerry Jericho and berated those on council who voted to appoint her.
“This is a one-year, two-month term,” said DiPiazza, whose resignation from council came in the form of a handwritten note at a Sept. 6 meeting that said only “I quit.”
“There are people up for re-election this coming May, which is you, Mr. Jericho, you Ms. (Debbie) Buck, and I guess Nancy, since she has taken the seat. Nothing personal to you, Nancy, you were great to me when my mother passed away and I appreciate it, but for the past three elections, the people of this town have voted not to put you back in. Now there must be reasons for thousands of people to not put you back in. I am with those people.”
Ellis, borough mayor from 2010 to 2014, unsuccessfully ran to reclaim the post last year.
After a loud exchange between DiPiazza and Jericho, the council president asked DiPiazza to leave the meeting.
“(Ellis) is just another yes vote. That is all, ladies and gentlemen. Another yes vote, that is what she is,” yelled DiPiazza, as he left the building.
Three borough residents – Ellis, former councilman Paul Pivovarnik and Jesse Jones – submitted letters of interest to fill the seat.
When Jericho called for a motion to nominate one of those candidates, Councilman Larry Celaschi asked for a discussion.
Celaschi said he felt Pivovarnik, a former president of council who lost his seat in last year’s primary, was the best person for the position.
“Filling this vacancy with the right candidate is extremely critical for the future of the borough of Charleroi,” said Celaschi. “What accomplishments separate Paul from the rest of the candidates? The biggest one, in my opinion, is that he was the only ‘no’ vote on the unnecessary $9 million stormwater project that was never mandated by the (state Department of Environmental Protection), but was shoved down the taxpayers’ throats, adding yet another bill to pay. No other community surrounding the Charleroi School District followed through on that.”
When Celaschi asked Jericho which council members voted in favor of the project 10 years ago, Jericho answered he and five other council members did. Jericho added, “We would have been in a lot of trouble if (the project) didn’t go through. Where are you going with this, Larry?”
“I’m putting some things out about the candidates that I think the public deserves to hear,” Celashchi said. “You’re the only one on that council and have a history with some of those people.”
Jericho replied, “I believe most of the people in this room know everything about Paul Pivovarnik and Nancy Ellis. They sat here before.”
Ellis, who was in office when council voted in favor of the project, said she did so on the advice of the borough’s solicitor.
“Having a fiduciary duty, I felt the solicitor knew best,” she said.
Pivovarnik, who was also present at the meeting, said after council members voted in favor of the stormwater project, its implementation was delayed for one year, which increased the cost of the project from $7 million to $9 million.
Following a spirited debate, Buck, Jericho and Councilwomen Heidi Cramer and Jeannine Motycki voted to appoint Ellis to the seat. Voting for Pivovarnik were Celaschi and Councilwoman Jody Cheplic.
Magisterial District Judge Larry Hopkins administered the oath of office.
In other business, council discussed the possibility of leasing office space for the magisterial judge. Celaschi also said an announcement will be forthcoming about the future of the Coyle Theater property. Council will hold its regular monthly meeting next Thursday.