MERCER COUNTY —
Embattled Mercer County Commissioner Brian Beader is no closer to a decision regarding his possible resignation, citing several factors involving both county and personal business.
Beader and Commissioner Matt McConnell were at a standoff last week over whether to transfer a parcel of land at the U.S. Route 19 and Interstate 80 interchange to the Neshannock Creek Watershed Joint Municipal Authority. That land transfer will allow work to move forward with the installation of sewers in the area, paving the way for future economic development.
McConnell made the motion to transfer the land; Beader refused to second the motion and it was dropped. Commissioner Chairman John Lechner was absent.
McConnell said Wednesday he plans to make the same motion at the May 8 meeting. “And you’ll have a second,” said Lechner.
Normally held at 10 a.m., the meeting has to be moved to 2 p.m., because Lechner has another commitment in the morning, commissioners said.
Beader, who works as an electrician, has been working out of town, first in the Pittsburgh area and currently in Orlando, Fla., and said he’s keeping up with county business via e-mail, phone calls and trips home. He said he’s given some consideration to resigning, but doesn’t want to leave until the land transfer is complete, and he doesn’t think it’s ready yet.
“McConnell’s pushing that through to try and get me out. But there is already a 26-acre discrepancy in the documents. The land won’t even be subdivided by the Regional Planning Commission until the end of May. I know that he campaigned against this development, and I won’t go until I’m sure this is far enough along that it can’t be undone,” Beader said.
“It’s a stunt. The numbers aren’t even correct. It’s not ready to go,” he added.
He said he may not be able to get to the 2 p.m. meeting on May 8, but if he can’t, he said he will participate by conference call.
He also said “politics is perception” and maintains that the daily operation of the courthouse is not affected by his absence. “We are policy-setters, not widget-makers. The courthouse runs according to the policies we’ve set, and they are carried out by courthouse employees. We don’t handle the day-to-day management,” he said.
“If one of the other commissioners isn’t there, nothing changes,” Beader said. “And I am 100 percent up to speed on everything we’re discussing.”
“And I have been quite open in freely admitting that I’m not there as much as I’d like to be,” he said. “And, the two of them can vote on whatever they need to if I’m not there,” he added.
McConnell and Lechner both said Wednesday they had not heard from Beader since the last meeting.
McConnell said he’s heard from multiple residents who are upset by Beader’s absence and from some who are interested in finishing out Beader’s term, if he resigns.
“He did say hello to me last week, if that counts,” McConnell said.
Lechner said he hasn’t heard anything “other than the same rumors everyone else has heard.”
Criticism that he isn’t in the office isn’t particularly bothering Beader, he said, because “taxpayers have the right to complain about whatever they want to.”
He said he would also like taxpayers to look into McConnell’s actions since he became a commissioner 28 months ago. “We are elected to set policy and bring a positive change to the taxpayers of Mercer County. Regardless of whether we go to meetings or not, we are supposed to be effective in bringing about a better life for our residents.”
“What’s he accomplished?” Beader said.
Beader said he is set apart from his colleagues in terms of lifestyle. “My colleagues have generally tended to be retired businessmen. I’m a working Joe. I log hours for somebody else and work where I’m told. Now they’re very gracious about my elected position as well, but the bottom line is I’m proud of the fact that I have this working class ethic. I’ve tried to always keep that,” he said.
“For example, I don’t take the premium parking spot next to the courthouse. I never did. I park in the employee lots, and I let anyone who donates to the United Way have my spot. I donated all my travel expenses. I never turned in any mileage for any travel,” he said.
As far as the last 18 months of his term, Beader said he would like to serve it out, if the construction job will allow.
“When I was given a full-time job, I was immediately sent out of state. And I said if I was always going to be out of state, I’d have to resign. There’s a chance now that I’ll be coming back to the Pittsburgh area, maybe even closer to home. I don’t know exactly that timeline. We have to get through this hurdle,” he said.
He also said his family is tolerating the criticism well. “It’s politics. They’re pretty tough. And I’m a big boy, I can take it,” he said.
Beader said he’s contacted Charles “Chaz” Rice, president of the Mercer County Democratic Committee, and told him he would be in touch when his situation changes.
Rice said earlier this week he has been contacted by 12 people who would like to replace Beader, if the position comes open.