The Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office said it will not investigate an alleged violation of the state’s Sunshine Act by Columbia Borough Council.
Borough resident Sharon Lintner filed the complaint after she said council voted on a funding matter in executive session during a November meeting.
“That vote should have been taken in public at the Nov. 7 meeting,” Lintner told LNP on Tuesday. “I felt that was not right because we weren’t privy to where that money came from.
“That vote was taken behind closed doors,” she said.
According to Lintner, the funding council voted on is related to a new borough property inspector position. She said although council approved Jay Frerichs for the position, funding had not been secured in the budget.
At a Nov. 1 meeting, she said, council announced it would hold an additional meeting on Nov. 7 to resolve the funding issue.
At the Nov. 7 meeting, council president Kelly Murphy announced council voted 6-1 to “hire that position,” according to an audio recording of the meeting provided to LNP by Lintner.
The annual salary for the position is $50,000.
Lintner brought up the issue again at council’s Nov. 12 meeting. She asked Murphy to clarify the purpose of the 6-1 vote.
He said the vote was “whether to move forward with hiring the person,” according to an audio recording of that meeting provided by Lintner.
“With hiring the person or funding the position?”
“Funding,” Murphy said.
Can’t prove intent
The district attorney’s office decided not to investigate the complaint because it could not prove there was an intent to violate the act, according to a letter from chief county Detective Kent L. Switzer to borough manager Rebecca Denlinger.
The letter, dated Dec. 12, 2018, said “now that you have been notified of the unlawful nature of the vote, upon complaint of a subsequent violation we will initiate an investigation of the Sunshine Act violation as it would have been done with full knowledge the action was unlawful.”
Letter by on Scribd
Murphy declined to comment on Lintner’s allegation, saying a specific allegation was not stated in the letter.
He said council is “extremely careful with regards to the Sunshine Act” and regularly receives direction from the borough’s solicitor and manager on what can and cannot be discussed.
“We know of no Sunshine Act violation that has occurred,” he said.
Asked if council has ever taken a vote on any matter in private executive session, Murphy repeated that he knew of no violations of the act.