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Borough manager walks out

Borough Manager Stephen Travers and borough Treasurer Sandra Gyecsek were not in attendance at the Catasauqua Borough Council meeting July 25. Neither were borough Mayor Barbara Schlegel nor Councilman Gene Schlegel.

There was no explanation offered by council President Brian Bartholomew as a reason for any of the absences, only a reference made, when the borough manager’s report was to take place, that there was no manager to provide the report.

The Press learned Aug. 1, after a Right to Know request was filed, that Travers had abruptly vacated his role with the borough July 27. He had officially tendered his resignation in June, with his expected departure in early September.

Gyecsek tendered her resignation about the same time.

Reportedly, efforts to persuade Travers to stay on until September by borough Solicitor Thomas Dinkelacker were not successful.

The borough is in a potentially costly search for a new manager. At the July 25 meeting, council Vice President Howard Cunningham reported the cost to find a new manager could cost as much as $9,000.

It was said there are a number of treasurer applicants to date. When she resigned, Gyecsek reported her official last day would be Aug. 31.

The Press reached out to Bartholomew, Dinkelacker, Travers and Gyecsek for comment.

Only Dinkelacker responded, saying he was unable to discuss the personnel matter regarding Travers’ departure.

“Nobody told me. They (council leadership) tell me nothing,” Councilman Paul Cmil alleged, when asked if he was aware of Travers’ departure.

Barbara and Eugene Schlegel, when asked, noted they did not know if Travers abruptly vacated his manager position. The mayor said Travers was not at work July 28.

The new council sworn in January has been surrounded by one controversial issue after another, starting with the consideration of reopening the 2022 budget in February and continuing with the recent termination of the Iron Works project.

The canceled $42 million Iron Works project, upon completion, was expected to generate hundreds of thousands of dollars of tax revenue for the borough.

Accusations by concerned, often angry residents - and even by some council members - at recent council meetings appear to center around an alleged lack of transparency by Bartholomew and council Vice President Howard Cunningham.

Cmil has been the loudest council critic, claiming malfeasance by the council leaders.

Public statements by a council member that the borough “is broke” were contradicted by Dinkelacker, who said at the July 25 council meeting, “The borough is not broke.”

He went on to say “the borough has significant financial challenges” that need to be addressed.

Near the end of the July 25 council meeting, Cunningham reported he recently had a two-hour conversation with a state official about a state takeover of the borough finances.

Both Cmil and fellow council member David Bernini said they were not informed of this meeting before Cunningham made the call to Harrisburg. It is not clear if the rest of council or even Bartholomew were apprised of Cunningham’s interaction with the state.

The Press has submitted additional Right to Know requests to gather information about conversations regarding the borough finances.

Cmil informed The Press he also planned to submit Right to Know requests and has created an online petition found on change.org.

Dinkelacker contacted The Press and asked that the Right to Know requests be forwarded to his law office for answers.

No responses were received at press time.

The next Catasauqua Borough Council meeting is 7 p.m. Aug. 29 at the borough’s municipal complex, 90 Bridge St. It is a hybrid meeting, with both in-person and virtual options. Visit catasauqua.org for the virtual meeting call-in number and access codes.