Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Authority Appointment with Appointee Vote Questioned

How can it possibly pass legal scrutiny for a commissioner board member to vote on his, in this case, her reappointment to an independent, autonomous Housing Authority position. Technically, Commissioner Angela Zimmerlink was appointed to carry out the term of a Housing Authority member who resigned.

While Commissioner Zimmerlink was appointed over five years ago to the Housing Authority, at the time, she had not yet been elected to the office of county commissioners. Her 5 year term on the Housing Authority expired in 2007.

Commissioner and Chairman Vincent Zapotosky made the motion for Zimmerlink's appointment to the open one-year remainder of a term.

Not obtaining a second from Commissioner Vicites on the appointment to an open term should have been the end of the matter. Unfortunately, it wasn't.

Her vote as a re-elected county commissioner was the deciding vote to her own appointment to fill the open and unexpired term of William Radcliffe.

Even though I was present at the meeting, and saw first-hand what occurred, it would have been useless to raise an objection at the time. I would have been booed out of the room for questioning if not the legality, the ethics, of the matter. Plus, the conflict-of-interest laws are broad enough to ram through a Mexican super-sized truck.

There may not be an actual "conflict" of interest as that conflict technically must be shown to affect personal financial gain. This is precisely why oftentimes on school boards, we see directors able to hire relatives as teachers.

Even so, Zimmerlink - after her own "appointment to an unexpired term" on the Housing Authority board - now voting as a Fayette County commissioner - was able to then vote on other appointments to the Housing Authority.

Had this been someone in political disfavor doing this, there would have been a huge outcry from seated onlookers and possibly a revolt.

In fact, it became evident after her own appointment (which keep in mind included her vote as the deciding vote), that she was hesitant to appoint other members to the Housing Authority when Commissioner Vicites did not second a motion to Commissioner Zapotosky's motion. Zimmerlink commented on the quandry.

(Interested persons should contact the office of chairman of commissioners to obtain an unedited copy of the official audio recording of the proceedings)(The meeting may or may not be fully available on Herald-Standard TV programming and coverage of the meeting may be edited)

don't misconstrue, Zimmerlink was a pitbull on the Housing Authority, raising questions, acting carefully on issues that ultimately affected Fayette taxpayers.

But once she was re-elected to the office of county commissioner in November, 2007, and took the oath of office Jan. 4, 2008, she should have, on principle, recused herself from a vote to reappoint (terchnically, appoint to an open term) herself to an autonomous municipal authority.

A challenge is unlikely from any quarter because of the political cost and monetary cost of filing a legal challenge to such official actions.

One bright spot, the appointment will expire reportedly Dec. 31, 2008. In the interim, more information can be gathered on the legalities concerning a sitting commissioner appointing himself, or herself, to what is supposed to be an autonomous Authority one-step removed from just such potential political influence or even the appearance of such potential political influence by the board (board members) which appointed the Authority members!

In fact, why can't all three sitting commissioners vote for each of themselves to be appointed to any number of listed municipal authorities in the county? All they need is one other vote from their own.

Then the member of the Authority board can turn around at the commissioners' meeting, voting as a commissioner, and make several more appointments of Authority board members? Then, what happens on a board consisting of five members? You'd have the commissioner-Authority board member, and two other board members appointed by that commissioner on the Authority board. Should the other members' votes always even appear to keep in line with the commissioner-Authority board member, wouldn't those votes be under challenge?

Wouldn't the Authority be something less than independent from those who created it?

(Net the Truth Online)

Article clips from the Herald-Standard and Tribune-Review

Zapotosky named commission chairman
By Amy Zalar, Herald-Standard
Updated 01/07/2008 07:15:13 PM EST

In appointments relating to the Fayette County Housing Authority, Zimmerlink and Zapotosky approved appointment of Zimmerlink to fill the unexpired term of William "Trip" Radcliffe, which will expire Dec. 31. Zimmerlink's five-year term expired in 2007. She has been appointed prior to winning election as a county commissioner.

Vicites, who voted against Zimmerlink's appointment, said he isn't in favor of Zimmerlink serving on the board.

"I would never serve on a municipal authority," Vicites said.

Zimmerlink pointed out that Vicites supported James V. Bitonti's appointment to the housing authority board, and Bitonti is the mayor of Belle Vernon. She also said that if it were an issue that she serves on the authority, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development or the state Ethics Commission would have fielded complaints by now.

Zapotosky said he was initially against Zimmerlink's appointment, but now believes "her presence is required."

Ernie Deblasio was then selected for a four-year term on the housing authority. His term will expire Dec. 31, 2011.

After motions by Vicites to reappoint Bitonti and then select Harry Joseph failed to garner seconds, Zapotosky and Zimmerlink then voted to appoint Harry Fike to a five-year term.

Zapotosky said he couldn't support Bitonti's reappointment, citing a conflict of interest. Zimmerlink explained that Bitonti's son works for the housing authority.

Vicites said Bitonti did a good job and was very ethical and moral in his votes.


Democrat named Fayette chairman
By Liz Zemba
Tuesday, January 8, 2008

...Zimmerlink was reappointed by a 2-1 vote to the housing authority, but only through Dec. 31. She will fill out the unexpired term of William Radcliffe, who resigned.

Vicites opposed Zimmerlink's reappointment on the grounds that housing authorities are meant to be free of any potential political pressure. Zapotosky said he, too, had previously opposed Zimmerlink's reappointment, but agreed to the one-year term only in light of Radcliffe's recent resignation.

Zimmerlink said her participation on the board is "overseen" and "scrutinized" to such an extent that any improprieties would be reported immediately to investigating agencies.

Vicites wanted to reappoint Jim Bitonti to the board, but his motion died for lack of a second. Commissioners instead voted 2-1, with Vicites in opposition, to place Harry Fike on the board.

Zapotosky said he did not want to reappoint Bitonti because Bitonti's son works for the authority. Although Vicites said Bitonti abstained from voting on matters involving his son, Zapotosky said he wanted to avoid any possibility of allegations of a conflict of interest.

Commissioners voted unanimously to appoint Ernie Deblasio to the board.


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