Uniontown’s city treasurer-elect will be sworn in next week.
The news came days after Antoinette Hodge filed a federal lawsuit in Pittsburgh, alleging some city officials conspired to keep her from taking office because she is black.
City solicitor Tim Witt said Thursday that Hodge submitted everything required of her to take office, and she would be sworn in at 5 p.m. Monday.
“I want to do what Uniontown city residents elected me to do,” Hodge said Thursday. “I’m ready to take the oath.”
She was not sworn in with other newly elected city officials earlier this week after a bond company revoked the bond that was necessary to hold the post on Jan. 3. Hodge alleged the revocation was due to the interference of council member Martin Gatti, whom she sued in federal court.
Hodge received a $150,000 bond Tuesday, clearing the way for her to be sworn in, and on Wednesday, her attorney filed a petition for an injunction, asking a judge to force city officials to install her as treasurer. That portion of the matter was resolved after a conference call between attorneys and a federal judge Thursday morning, but Hodge’s lawsuit against the city, Gatti and City Clerk Kim Marshall remains.
The suit alleged Gatti and Marshall conspired to keep her from taking office because of her race. Both have denied the allegations.
Hodge’s lawsuit alleges that a manager at BondExchange, a North Carolina-based wholesale surety broker that had been involved in facilitating Hodge’s bond, told Hodge and Mayor Bill Gerke on Monday that Gatti had referred to Hodge as a “colored girl” and canceled Hodge’s bond. The suit contended Gatti told the broker the city had “authorized” him to cancel the bond and he was doing so because of alleged incriminating evidence uncovered during a background check.
Gerke said Thursday that he did not hear the BondExchange manager allege that Gatti made the racial comment, and was on the call for roughly eight seconds, only hearing the BondExchange manager confirm that Gatti had called about Hodge’s bonding eligibility.
Hodge’s lawsuit also alleges that another BondExchange employee asked Hodge if she was “black” or “white,” and when Hodge answered that she was African-American, the employee stated, “That sums it up.”
A BondExchange executive said Thursday that the assertions in Hodge’s lawsuit of what BondExchange employees said to Hodge “do not align with the recollection of our employees” mentioned in the suit.
The BondExchange executive declined to comment on whether Gatti’s call had any bearing on bonding consideration for Hodge. BondExchange is a broker and does not underwrite bonds.
Gatti has said he was within his right as the city’s director of accounts and finance to call the broker, alleging that he had been told about multiple bond denials for Hodge from several companies and was only interested in protecting the city financially. He has denied having ever used the phrase “colored girl.” Hodge’s attorney, Joel Sansone, leveled that accusation when he attended this week’s council meeting with Hodge.
“I’m excited we’re able to put Monday night behind us,” Hodge said Thursday, adding that she hopes people come to City Hall to be on hand as she takes the oath of office next week.
Hodge is believed to be the first ever black woman elected city treasurer in Uniontown, having defeated incumbent Joseph Giachetti in the Democratic primary.