We’ve heard from a lot of folks interested in a more concise timeline of events of the suspected ethical concerns regarding the actions taken by Bellevue Council on December 17, 2012. On that evening there were a lot of stories unpacked and accusations made and we’d like to clear the air as best we can.
It all began in November 2009 when Jane Braunlich, the incumbent councilwoman from the 1st ward, found herself in a deadlock tie for re-election against rival David Piet. Initially believing that she won re-election by a single vote, the election commission found a missing absentee ballot which had been lost in an election official’s car for nearly a week. The single vote which turned the tide of the election was cast by Walt Daughenbaugh, a Bellevue resident who was deployed to Afghanistan with the Army at the time. After learning that the election was in fact a tie, Braunlich challenged the vote in the Court of Common Pleas. The judge presiding over the case ruled to allow the vote based upon the fact that there was no evidence of fraud involved in the vote and David Piet won election by the “casting of lots.” That was until Braunlich retained the services of Attorney Patricia McGrail and appealed the decision to Commonwealth Court. With McGrail’s assistance, Braunlich was able to convince a judge to have Daughenbaugh’s vote thrown out, leading her to retain her seat by a single vote. To verify the account of this story you can read articles in the Tribune-Review here and here.
During the meeting on December 17, 2012, Ms. Lisa Blaney (former councilwoman), revealed, “Someone from McGrail’s office staff in 2010 at the Allegheny League of Municipalities (ALOM) Conference said Patricia McGrail was promised the position of solicitor if she represented Jane Braunlich in taking the Council seat by throwing out a military man’s valid vote.”
Fast forward to January 2012, the newly elected Council President Linda Woshner unexpectedly called for a vote to replace the solicitor Mr. Tom McDermott. Prior to the call for a vote, according to Councilman Frank Camello, shortly after initially taking his seat as the newly elected councilman representing Ward 2, he was approached by Ms. Woshner and Ross Township native and frequent political meddler Mark Purcell (for information about Mark Purcell’s colorful political history click here) about the need to vote Mr. McDermott out of his position as borough solicitor. Uncomfortable with being pressured to vote to replace the solicitor whom he felt “was doing a good job and did not need replaced,” Mr. Camello refused to vote along with Woshner. Surprised by Mr. Camello’s unwillingness to ” do as he was told,” Woshner again pressured Mr. Camello by stating, “Mark Purcell wants us to do this now!” Again, not willing to bend to the political pressure of the council president, Mr. Camello stood by his conscience and did not vote in favor of Woshner’s plan.
All of this ultimately brings us to the events which unfolded before our eyes during a special council meeting on Monday, December 17, 2012. It was in this meeting that Jane Braunlich and Linda Woshner (and ultimately Mark Purcell) were able to muster enough votes, via the assistance of the recently appointed Councilwoman Lynn Heffley, to pull the trigger on replacing Tom McDermott as borough solicitor with Patricia McGrail, who according to Ms. Lisa Blaney has been waiting for the job since January 2009. Sue and Jim Viscusi (husband and wife council members) also voted as expected in compliance with their friend, Linda Woshner.
The members of Liberty in Bellevue initially came together because we were tired of merely standing idly by as we witnessed our borough decline further and further into economic depression. Something needed to change and we knew it needed to begin with our local government. The current council seemed bent on a short sighted vision of serving their friends and personal agendas. When we began to do a little digging, we had no idea we would discover this degree of potential corruption and questionable ethics within our council. After unpacking what we’ve learned in the past 48 hours, it is not wonder our borough continues to decline. We believe the voters of Bellevue deserve a transparent and honest government that is working to serve the best interests of our borough regardless of political persuasion or personal grudges. If you want to be a part of the solution and see our community prosper once again, be sure to share this video and story with your friends and neighbors. Bellevue deserves better than this!
Chapter Headings/Time Stamps:
0:15 – Pledge of Allegiance, Moment of Silence, Roll Call
IN ATTENDANCE: Jane Braunlich, Lynn Heffley, Jim Sciciani, Sue Viscusi, Jim Viscusi, Linda Woshner, Mark Helbling, Frank Camello, Kathy Coder (arrives a few minutes late), Mayor Doscher, Borough Manager Doug Sample, Solicitor Tom McDermott.
1:22 – Public Comment: Lisa Anne Blaney & Randy Swackhammer
4:20 – Chair Committee Reports begin
4:50 – President Woshner suggests “skipping” chair reports.
4:55 – Resolutions (none)
4:56 – Ordinances (SEVEN of them!)
5:05 – #1 Bayne Park Rules, Regulations, and Hours for Skate Plaza (passes unanimously)
6:13 – #2 Parking Enforcement & free parking hours/days with discussion (passes unanimously)
15:22 – #3 Residential LERTA/tax abatement for residential rehab of blighted properties. (passes unanimously)
16:47 – #4 Second reading of the proposal for a Garbage Collection Fee Increase.
20:50 – #5 Second reading of Wage & Benefits for borough employees.
21:25 – #6 Second reading of Establishing & Regulating pensions for non-uniformed borough employees.
21:57 – #7 Second reading of the Firefighter Pension Plan
22:35 – Susan Viscusi motions to appoint Patricia McGrail as the new Bellevue solicitor for 2013. Many pieces of the scandal are unpacked between Mark Helbing and Frank Camello. Jane Braunlich and Linda Woshner argue with other councilmembers that this is all just “politics” and an attempt to take Jane’s vote from her.