After some months of investigating the feasibility of engaging the services of a borough manager and adding another officer to the police department roster, Mount Union Borough Council Wednesday filled both needs with one hire.
In a 5-4 decision, council gave tentative approval to Adam Miller to serve as borough manager and chief of police, effective Jan. 2, at a salary of $45,000.
Gary Kuklo, who chairs council’s finance committee, said the 2019 budget, which was also approved Wednesday, does support the agreed upon salary.
Miller served as Huntingdon County Emergency Management Agency director from 2005 to 2013 and is the founder and CEO of GoDEZI, a local shuttle and transportation service.
A Mount Union resident for the past two years, Miller also serves as a deputy with the Huntingdon County Sheriff’s Department and as a county detective through the district attorney’s office. He holds a bachelor’s degree in public administration and a master’s degree in nonprofit leadership, both from Juniata College.
Miller said will will give “10,000 percent” to the job as he does his part to help Mount Union succeed as a place to live and work.
“Mount Union has some of the best assets I’ve seen in a small town,” he said. “They just need to be released.”
He continued: “I’m going to do nothing but focus on the future and when there’s a problem or an issue, I’ll be there day or night.”
Mount Union has gone without a borough manager since 2010 when Eric Powell, who assumed duties at the start of 2004, was let go; the borough’s last police chief, Nick Richtscheit, was let go the same year as Powell.
The monthly meeting begin with solicitor Larry Lashinsky reporting council held an executive session Monday, Dec. 3, for personnel matters. Council member Mike Shields then made a motion recommending Miller for the job of manager and police chief, a move seconded by Nancy Lynn.
Council president Carol Kuklo said Monday’s executive meeting was called to discuss the option of hiring Miller to a dual position and to review his qualifications. She said seven of council’s nine members attended the session.
Kuklo said she wanted council to have time to process the proposal ahead of possible vote Wednesday and also hoped to cut down on the running time of Wednesday’s public meeting by holding the executive session on an earlier date.
Council member Mary Crawly expressed displeasure with the way council handled the matter and said she believes the borough should have advertised the position. Crawly said she was unaware of the executive session and said her cell phone records will prove no one tried to reach her.
Kuklo and borough secretary Cindy Hobbs said they both tried to reach Crawly but the number they had for her was not operational.
“There is no unity here,” Crawly said. “Everybody just does what they want to do underhanded. It should be advertised, others should have the opportunity to apply.”
Lashinsky said council is under no legal obligation to advertise the position of borough manager. Melissa Melewsky, media legal counsel with the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association, says a governing body like a borough council can call for an executive session provided certain steps are taken.“The Sunshine Act requires all elected officials to get at least 24 hours notice of the date, time, location and purpose of the meeting; if not, it’s a violation of the Sunshine Act,” Melewsky said, adding notice should be given in writing. She noted “the public is not similarly entitled” to receive notice.
Council member Joan Rogers said she, too, has her concerns, namely the consolidation of power.
She told Miller, “I think you are a very good candidate but with you being borough manager and chief of police, that’s too much power for anyone in a small town.”
Shields said he saw the proposal as a way to resolve two issues that have been weighing on the borough.
“We’ve been looking for a borough manager and the department has been looking for a fifth officer,” he said.
Voting “yes” were Shields, Lynn, Mary Hancock, Gary Kuklo and Carol Kuklo; “no” votes were cast by Crawly, Rogers, Marlee Russell and Wayne Querry.
Querry initially said he wished to abstain because he wanted to think over the matter but was informed by Lashinsky that his reason did not meet the guidelines for abstention.
“I like to think about stuff,” Querry said. “I’m not for this guy or against him.”
In July, Querry made a motion recommending the borough advertise for a manager; the motion failed but council committed to researching the matter. Querry made an identical motion in August, which was defeated in a tie-breaker vote.
Council still needs to solidify a job description and other job-related details. Council is slated to meet again Wednesday, Dec. 19, starting at 5 p.m. with a public hearing on a dangerous structure; a voting session will follow at which point council will act on those details and several other business items.