In today's Standard Speaker Mia Light writes about a request by Grace Cuozzo to have the Authority's solicitor pen a petition that would be legally correct so that signatures on it would constitute a referendum question allowed under the Third Class city code.
Cuozzo asked the HCA board to take the petition idea a step further by authorizing its solicitor to write an ordinance proposal - prohibiting the sale of the authority's assets - that could be placed at City Hall for citizens to sign, similar to a petition.
Cuozzo was referring to the "initiative and referendum" power that state law affords to citizens of a third-class city.
According to the Governor's Center for Local Government Services, the state's Third Class City Code gives voters a limited initiative and referendum power over ordinances, which allows them to propose ordinances to city council by petition.
The petition must be placed in the city clerk's office for 15 days and must be signed by a number of registered voters that equals at least 20 percent of all votes cast for the office of mayor at the preceding mayoral municipal election.
What is missing from this article is her additional request for advertising money so she could place an ad in the local newspaper to ask people to sign HER petition.
After Cuozzo presented the initiative and referendum idea to the HCA board, chairman Phil Andras asked her to put her proposal in writing and present it at the HCA board's Jan.. 14 meeting.
So to be clear Grace Cuozzo asks the Authority Board to loan her their solicitor so he could author a petition that contains legal language for her petition that she wants to place in City Hall to collect signatures. Then she wants the authority to foot the bill for her advertisement in the newspaper.
The question SOP has for the Authority Board, its solicitor, Grace Cuozzo, and Dee Deakos is where such authorization is contained in the Municipality Authorities Act to allow the board to fund an expenditure for a private person. What if those who want the sale to proceed approach the Board for the same help? Would the Board fund that endeavour? No matter how the Board felt on the sale it should have denied the request due to the nature of the funding it.
Under the Third Class City Code, the Board does not have the right to petition the voters about this issue. It is not the electorate. Therefore it is hard to rationalize the basis for it to fund a private initiative to petition Hazleton City Council and/or its voters.
From the Municipal Authorities Act of 2001:
§ 5607. PURPOSES AND POWERS.
(A) SCOPE OF PROJECTS PERMITTED.--EVERY AUTHORITY
INCORPORATED UNDER THIS CHAPTER SHALL BE A BODY CORPORATE AND POLITIC AND SHALL BE FOR THE PURPOSES OF: FINANCING WORKING CAPITAL; ACQUIRING, HOLDING, CONSTRUCTING, IMPROVING, MAINTAINING AND OPERATING, OWNING OR LEASING, EITHER IN THE CAPACITY OF LESSOR OR LESSEE, PROJECTS OF THE FOLLOWING KIND AND CHARACTER; AND PROVIDING FINANCING FOR INSURANCE RESERVES:
From the Governor's Center For Local Government Services Municipal Authorities In Pennsylvania
Powers of the Authority
The Municipality Authorities Act specifies the rights and powers of the authority and vests them in the authority board. The board exercises these powers through its officers, employees and consultants. They include the following.
1. To exist for 50 years as a corporation.
2. To sue and be sued.
3. To adopt a corporate seal.
4. To acquire, hold, lease and use any property or franchise necessary or desirable for carrying out its
purpose, and to sell, lease or dispose of its property at any time.
5. To acquire projects by purchase, lease or otherwise and to construct, improve, maintain, repair and
6. To adopt bylaws for the management and regulation of its affairs.
7. To appoint officers, agents and employes, prescribe their duties and fix compensation.
8. To fix, alter, charge and collect reasonable and uniform rates and other charges in its service area and
to exclusively determine the services and improvements, including extensions, required to assure
adequate, safe and reasonable service.
9. To borrow money and issue notes, bonds and other evidences of indebtedness or obligations of the
10. To make contracts and execute all instruments necessary or convenient for carrying out its business.
11. To borrow money, accept grants from and enter into contracts, leases or other transactions with any
federal or state agency, any municipality, school district, corporation or authority.
12. To exercise the power of eminent domain.
13. To pledge or otherwise encumber the revenues or receipts of the authority as security for its
14. To do anything necessary or convenient for promoting its business and the general welfare of the
authority and to carry out its legal powers.
15. To contract with any municipality, corporation or public authority of Pennsylvania or any adjoining
state for projects crossing state lines.
16. To enter into contracts to supply water and other services to municipalities not members of the
authority and to fix the amount to be paid.
17. To make assessments for sewer or water main construction and to charge tapping fees.
18. To make assessments for business improvements and administrative services.
19. To provide financing for insurance reserves.
20. To finance projects by making loans to nonprofit institutions and local government units.
21. To provide hospital, medical, disability and life insurance benefits and establish pension plans for its
22. To appoint police officers who have the same power as other peace officers within the property of the
authority, and to regulate vehicular traffic at airports
There is nothing in the purposes and powers permitting the Authority to finance a private person's legal expenses.
If Cuozzo and Deakos are so pationate about this issue they should either put up their own funds for legal advice and advertising money or try to raise it within the community. Authority money has no place to fund their private intiative even if it is to oppose the sale of the water department of the Hazleton City Authority.
Hazleton City Authority Board Members, why do you talk about reviving the Industrial Division when it was part of your duties as members of the board in the first place?