Friday, March 8, 2013

Jack Mundie Wrong For Hazleton City Council

Jack Mundie, Hazleton City Councilman, is going to seek another term to represent the citizens of Hazleton. In an effort to inform the electorate this column will expose his true character, or lack thereof, in the performance of his duties.

Mr. Mundie enjoyed an obscure tenure on Hazleton City Council.  He aligned himself with former mayor and now Congressman Lou Barletta, former City Councilwoman Evelyn Graham, and former councilman and present Mayor Joseph Yannuzzi for years. He remained silent until 2009 when Hazleton City Council stripped him of his fully paid healthcare benefit for attending just 21 meetings a year.

His healthcare insurance tab, paid by Hazleton taxpayers despite owning and operating his own business in Hazle Township, amounted to a total of $40,992.00.

Ordinance 97-9 granted newly elected council members for the year 1998 the right to paid healthcare and life insurance benefits.

The Ordinance states "NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT ORDAINED, by the City of Hazleton, by and through Hazleton City Council that newly elected members of Council of the City of Hazleton for the year 1998 will be provided health and life insurance benefits from the City of Hazleton, comparable to those benefits given to employees of the City of Hazleton."

It makes no mention of members elected in any other year. It appears Mr. Mundie had no legal authorization to have the City of Hazleton pay for his healthcare. Despite owning his own business for years, Mr. Mundie forced Hazletonians to pay for his healthcare by voting for the expenditure with each budget authorization.

The State Ethics Law is quite clear.

"Conflict" or "conflict of interest." Use by a public official or public employee of the authority of his office or employment or any confidential information received through his holding public office or employment for the private pecuniary benefit of himself, a member of his immediate family or a business with which he or a member of his immediate family is associated. The term does not include an action having a de minimis economic impact or which affects to the same degree a class consisting of the general public or a subclass consisting of an industry, occupation or other group which includes the public official or public employee, a member of his immediate family or a business with which he or a member of his immediate family is associated.

§ 1103. Restricted activities (a) Conflict of interest.--No public official or public employee shall engage in conduct that constitutes a conflict of interest

(j) Voting conflict.--Where voting conflicts are not otherwise addressed by the Constitution of Pennsylvania or by any law, rule, regulation, order or ordinance, the following procedure shall be employed. Any public official or public employee who in the discharge of his official duties would be required to vote on a matter that would result in a conflict of interest shall abstain from voting and, prior to the vote being taken, publicly announce and disclose the nature of his interest as a public record in a written memorandum filed with the person responsible for recording the minutes of the meeting at which the vote is taken, provided that whenever a governing body would be unable to take any action on a matter before it because the number of members of the body required to abstain from voting under the provisions of this section makes the majority or other legally required vote of approval unattainable, then such members shall be permitted to vote if disclosures are made as otherwise provided herein. In the case of a three-member governing body of a political subdivision, where one member has abstained from voting as a result of a conflict of interest and the remaining two members of the governing body have cast opposing votes, the member who has abstained shall be permitted to vote to break the tie vote if disclosure is made as otherwise provided herein. Mr. Mundie has to explain to the Hazleton voters why he collected benefits without the legal authorization to do so.

This isn't the only instance where Mr. Mundie may have run afoul of the Ethics laws. 

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