A recent argument at the Farrell City Council meeting prompted a pretty strong response from one of the council members.
At issue was an application for a low-interest emergency home repair loan from the city – a program available to any resident who finds themselves in a tough spot.
The problem is, Kimberly Doss is not just any resident. She is a sitting city council member.
Solicitor Stephen Mirizio wanted to get a waiver, to make sure that the city was following guidelines for the funds. He wanted to petition the grantor to make sure that there were no problems that would spring up later.
Mirizio was doing his job – making sure the city was not endangering its ability to participate in the program by violating a conflict of interest rule.
Had he not done so, the entire program could have been jeopardized. That would mean that no Farrell resident could benefit from the loan program. He did not want to see that happen, and he did what he needed to do to protect the city.
Doss was having none of that and launched into a tirade during the meeting, accusing Mirizio of delaying her loan and questioning his professionalism and job performance.
So, first things first.
Doss was absolutely in the wrong. And it is astonishing that she voted to approve her own loan – and that no one called her on that vote.
A sitting council member should know that there is a real concern about propriety in a situation like this and should have behaved professionally and responsibly and recused herself from the vote.
But that was just the beginning.
Mirizio did not deserve the unprofessional lashing he got – and Doss should be ashamed of her behavior. And, frankly, the good people of Farrell deserve better.
Bottom line is this, and it is a caveat that applies to anyone who sits on a council, a school board or on any other public body in any community.
If you take on a public role, and promise to look after the interests of the city or school district that you serve, you have also promised to put the needs of your constituents first. And that means following the rules and going out of your way to eliminate any suggestion of impropriety.
You are not there to look after your own interests or to use your public seat for your own gain – or to give the impression that the rules don’t or shouldn’t apply to you.
So, if you apply for a city program, city loan, city permit, anything that a regular citizen is entitled to, you have to go through extra steps.
You should make sure that there is absolutely no perception or suggestion that you are taking advantage of your seat on a board or your position in a community.
It is a matter of ethics and responsible leadership.
And, frankly, it is expected in any organization or business. That is why employees are often unable to enter drawings or contests – because they work for the organization.
Farrell is making great strides. A lot of good people are working hard to make a difference and to set a course for a bright future – not only for this generation, but also for generations to come.
And, we should point out, there is lots of good news coming out of Farrell because of that hard work.
Those who choose to serve on the public bodies that represent this community have the same obligation that anyone has who chooses to run for office.
And the first of those charges is to serve the community first – and to behave like a leader.
Doss did neither.
Mirizio stood up and did what was right.
And that is the bottom line.