MONESSEN – Monessen Mayor Matt Shorraw feels officials are withholding city-related letters and correspondence from him, so he sent a letter recently asking this mayoral mail be delivered to his home by a city finance specialist.
Council members have balked at the request, inviting Shorraw to the city’s public building to collect documents and mail related to his elected position.
It’s the latest in ongoing strife between Shorraw and council members Tony Orzechowski, Dave Feehan and Lois Thomas. Shorraw hasn’t been to the board’s past 26 meetings; Councilman Gil Coles has been to only one meeting since February 2018.
And while Coles remained mum, Shorraw blamed council for his absences and inability to fully participate in city government.
“I have made it clear repeatedly as to why we have not yet returned to the meetings,” Shorraw said. “I would love to return; however, Gil and I both feel that until council and solicitors, and certain other individuals, are held accountable for their past and current actions regarding potentially illegal and unethical behavior, and conflicts of interest, which have been discussed in newspapers for the past year, it is best that we stay separated from these actions.”
Shorraw and Coles initially agreed to do a sit-down interview over the weekend to discuss their concerns more fully, but on Friday, Shorraw indicated Coles was unavailable to meet. Shorraw instead answered questions via email.
Orzechowski, named acting mayor this year, said he still isn’t sure what Shorraw’s concerns are. He said he, Thomas and Feehan are focused on running the city.
“He makes these comments and accusations but never gives any details,” Orzechowski said. “The people of Monessen are tired of this. Councilman David Feehan, Councilwoman Lois Thomas and I are trying to do what’s best for the City of Monessen. We just ignore him and take care of business.”
But Shorraw said he doesn’t want to be ignored – he wants his city-related correspondence.
To that end, he sent a letter to City Administrator Judith Taylor, asking her to authorize Karla Spangler, a city finance specialist, to pick up and deliver mail, past meeting agendas, minutes and documentation to his home.
“Due to my work schedule, I am unable to acquire my mail and other documents during regular business hours,” Shorraw wrote in the letter. “Seeing as council will not allow me into the building after hours, I have no other way to get my mail and any other documents that belong to me.”
In his capacity as acting mayor, Orzechowski denied the request.
“All of us on the council also have employment-related commitments that we must juggle to fulfill our duties as elected officials, but still find time to do so,” he said.
Taylor has been asked to open Shorraw’s mail from agencies that work with the city, Orzechowski said. That step was taken after the city missed notices that included Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaints and correspondence from state and federal agencies, he said.
Orzechowski said Shorraw need only ask Taylor for the updated passcode to the city building to come and get his correspondence himself – though Shorraw said he was told he doesn’t have “authorization to be in the building” when it’s not regularly open to the public. He said the last time he was in the building was on a Saturday last summer, when Orzechowski confronted him and told him he “had no business being there.”
Shorraw said he was with two other people at the time, and Orzechowski, already in the building, questioned what they were doing.
It wasn’t an affront to them, Orzechowski said. He said he was concerned when he saw unfamiliar faces after alarms at the building were triggered.
“It’s a common courtesy to let the rest of the council know what’s going on,” said Orzechowski. “I’ve stressed many times that we want to be transparent. And we have concerns when unknown individuals are coming into city hall after hours. There is a lot of confidential information in that building and we want to keep it secure.”
Shorraw said he wants to be able to do the job he was sworn in to do in January 2018, but said he – and Coles – continue to feel stymied at every turn. He said neither man has any immediate plans to return to public meetings.
“We will return when we have the full support of city council,” he said.