Corruption. Cronyism. Dysfunction.
The Volant Borough, population 168, a quaint village of shops and restaurants in Lawrence County, has it all.
Over the last six months, a beef between the borough’s council and 20 merchants has threatened to put the merchants, and their annual community festivals, out of business. Merchants sponsor about 10 events and festivals a year, drawing thousands of visitors to Volant.
In December, council members, taking aim at the popular festivals, approved three ordinances banning porta potties, prohibiting alcohol, and adding unreasonable permit procedures.
Since then, the soap opera of Volant politics has grown to absurd dimensions, including alleged threats to borough Mayor Ingrid Both-Hoesl, $15,000 in license fees that are unaccounted for, and a borough solicitor and secretary who won’t talk.
Isolated from major media markets, this pint-size Peyton Place is a perfect place for a petri dish of small-town shenanigans. When no one is watching, no one is accountable.
In a lawsuit filed April 9, borough merchants called collecting licensing fees, without maintaining the public restroom, illegal and unconstitutional.
Over the last six years, the borough-owned restroom, attached to the municipal building, has been closed most of the time. The lawsuit, filed by New Castle Attorney Christoper Papa, representing the merchants, alleges the fees were improperly placed in the borough’s general fund.
Both-Hoesl, however, told the New Castle News last week the borough was broke, an allegation council President Bob McGary denied Tuesday.
Borough Solicitor John DeCaro declined to comment Friday, citing attorney-client privilege. DeCaro has collected roughly $7,000 in legal fees from the borough in January through March, Both-Hoesl said.
If DeCaro is unable, or unwilling, to talk to the public, he ought to urge borough council members to speak up. Taxpayers are footing the bill for De-Caro’s legal fees. The residents of Volant are his real clients.
Reached Tuesday, Borough Secretary Carmen Ortiz Brown also declined to comment on the license fees.
By not talking, borough officials are only arousing suspicions that may be entirely unwarranted.
Volant can easily resolve this matter by showing where the money went, and what it was used for. How hard is that? Unless the borough used the money improperly, it has nothing to hide.
Come clean, Volant. This time, someone is watching.