Ambler Borough Council Appoints New Member

By Stephen Pilegg
Times Herald
June 25, 2015

Karen Polesir, selected to fill the vacancy left by Richard Palumbo, and Ambler Borough Council President Sal Pasceri discuss her swearing-in at the next regular meeting. Bob Raines — Digital First Media

After an unexpected turn of events at the Ambler Borough Council meeting June 16 that saw a two-way tie for the vacant seat in Ward 2, council, with the help of a rarely used outside party, finally determined a clear winner the following week.

In a 5-4 vote at a special meeting Tuesday night, June 23, it was decided that Karen Polesir will be filling Richard Palumbo’s vacant seat until Dec. 31. Palumbo resigned from borough council May 20 to pursue a career opportunity in Tennessee.

Polesir serves on the executive board of Ambler Main Street and has been a member and co-director of a local branch of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests since 2002.

During the June 16 meeting, council members cast their votes for three candidates to fill Palumbo’s seat, but ultimately ended with a 4-4 tie between Polesir and Matt Cooley. Former Ward 2 council member Pat Strus was eliminated following the first round of voting after receiving only one vote.

With a rare tie on its hands, council was forced to employ the help of vacancy board Chairman Norman LaMastra to cast the deciding vote. At that meeting, council President Sal Pasceri said it was the first time in his memory that such a vote was necessary.

Each candidate’s resume was sent to LaMastra so that he could make an informed decision when called upon June 23.

Adding a monkey wrench to an already unique situation, council member Nancy Deininger announced at the June 16 meeting that she would not be present to vote in person during the tiebreaker because she would be in Germany at the time.

In this situation, Borough Manager Mary Aversa explained that Deininger would be required to telecommunicate her vote — via a phone call or FaceTime, for example — during the June 23 meeting.

If for some reason she was not able to establish a connection or could not call in at that time, council would vote with seven members since it would still have a quorum with that number and would, therefore, not require LaMastra’s vote.

However, Deininger managed to get the timing right and phone in her vote along with the other seven council members.

Much like the June 16 vote, four votes for Cooley came from council members Jonathan Sheward, Sharon McCormick, Nancy Deininger and Claudio Zaccone, while four votes for Polesir came from council members Ed Curtis, Peter Amento, Sal Pasceri and Frank DeRuosi.

Council then called on LaMastra to cast the deciding vote.

According to Borough Manager Mary Aversa, LaMastra said he felt that both Cooley and Polesir were excellent candidates, but gave his vote to Polesir on the basis that she is able to run for a new term in the election.

The Hatch Act, enacted in 1939, prohibits federal employees or those involved in political campaigns from running for office in an election. Cooley, a member of the Wissahickon Democratic Committee, would have to resign his position with the committee before running for a council seat.

“Historically, even all the way back to the founding fathers, there was a concern that people employed by the government should not run for office,” Aversa said. “Most simply stated, the worry was that a government employee could — while running for office — make promises to potential voters about what sort of government favors the candidate might return to the person in exchange for his or her vote.”

To simplify things even more, Aversa further explained that the concern is all about the process of running for elected office, not about whether the person could hold the job.

Polesir, a Democrat, and incumbent Republican Zaccone are set to be on the November ballot in the election for the four-year Ward 2 seat currently held by Zaccone.

The Democratic and Republican parties will nominate candidates to run in November for a two-year term to finish out Palumbo’s four-year term.








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