The majority of Scranton City Council members support appointing a University of Scranton philosophy professor and a senior manager with the State Workers Insurance Fund to the city ethics board.
Council intended to meet in caucus Tuesday with Mayor Paige Gebhardt Cognetti, city Business Administrator Carl Deeley and city Office of Economic and Community Development Director Eileen Cipriani to discuss, among other business, the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on Scranton’s 2020 budget. But, when technical issues temporarily prevented council from broadcasting live on YouTube and delayed the start of the caucus by more than 30 minutes, officials opted to postpone the session with the Cognetti administration until next week.
Anticipating drops in earned income tax, real estate transfer tax and delinquent property, business privilege and mercantile tax revenues, city officials warned in June that 2020 city revenues could drop by $6 million to $10 million as a result of the pandemic. Former interim Business Administrator Pat Sheridan qualified those estimates at the time by noting the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic and its ultimate impact on city finances.
The Pennsylvania Economy League, Scranton’s state-appointed Act 47 coordinator, shared slightly a less dire projection in July, forecasting city budget deficits of $3.61 million this year, $4.08 million in 2021, $5.61 million in 2022 and $8.1 million in 2023.
Because of the live streaming issues, council will now hold its virtual caucus with Cognetti, Deeley and Cipriani at 5:45 p.m. on Oct. 6. It will be broadcast live on ECTV’s YouTube channel.
During the abbreviated caucus held prior to council’s regular meeting Tuesday, council President Bill Gaughan and members Mark McAndrew and Jessica Rothchild said they support appointing Matthew Meyer, Ph.D., and Thomas J. Finley to fill two vacancies on the city ethics board.
Meyer is a professor of philosophy at the University of Scranton, while Finley is a state-licensed Realtor and senior manager with the State Workers Insurance Fund. They and another resident, Michael Anthony Stanilka, submitted letters of interest earlier this month hoping to fill vacancies created by the resignations of ethics board members Mary Jo Sheridan and Bruce Reddock.
Councilman Kyle Donahue said he’s still reviewing the qualifications of the three applicants. Councilman Tom Schuster asked council Solicitor Kevin Hayes to review whether Stanilka — the judge of elections for Ward 3, Precinct 1 in Scranton and a member of the city Democratic Party executive committee — is eligible to serve on the board while maintaining those roles.
The city adopted a stricter ethics code in January 2019 that prohibits ethics board members from holding “office in any political party or political organization or political committee.”
Hayes must determine what the definition of the word “office” is relative to that section of the code, he said.
Council did not take formal action on the appointments Tuesday, but may introduce legislation next week to fill the vacancies.