Baden Councilman Ted Kotula (front), Councilwoman Judi Montell (rear left), Mayor Sam Gagliardi, Councilman John Shelkons / capture from Baden Borough surveillance video

At their last public meeting, Baden Borough Council voted to table for a month the hiring of part-time police when several members raised concerns about the hiring process. Just minutes after that public meeting, a private meeting was held between the town’s Mayor and three members of Council. Two days later, a private vote was taken via email and phone to hire the officers.

Surveillance video and emails obtained by the Beaver Countian in response to a series of Right-to-Know requests detail an apparent attempt to push through the hiring of four part-time officers over the objection of several town officials and outside the spotlight of a public meeting as normally required by the Pennsylvania Sunshine Act.

An audio recording of the January 17th public meeting of Baden Borough Council — also obtained by the Beaver Countian through a Right-to-Know request — reveals a contentious debate between members of Council on the hiring of part-time officers. Some members of council expressed frustration with the hiring process and a high turnover rate of officers; a public commenter alleged age discrimination and revealed that one of the men to be hired was being deployed overseas for a year and would be unable to work, the town’s Mayor urged Council to consider hiring a full-time officer instead of the additional part-timers.

Following the public meeting, surveillance video shows that Mayor Sam Gagliardi, Council President Judi Montell, and Councilmen Ted Kotula and John Shelkons met privately in the municipal building. Mayor Gagliardi later told the Beaver Countian the hiring of part-time police was not talked about during their private discussions, although Council President Montell insisted that was the only topic discussed.

Emails obtained by the Beaver Countian appear to bolster Judi Montell’s account of events.

On January 19th, the Friday after the public meeting, Councilman Ted Kotula sent an email at 9:07 a.m. to town secretary Elaine Rakovan, Councilman John Shelkons, Mayor Sam Gagliardi, and Police Chief David Christner.

“After discussions with the committee and the mayor, we would like you to conduct a phone vote for the hiring of the 4 part time officers I noted at the meeting,” wrote Ted Kotula. “I make the motion. I am a yes.”

Minutes later at 9:30 a.m., the secretary sent notification to the council members who have email addresses, “Please read below and vote yes or no…”

The secretary’s email was responded to at 9:37 a.m. by Councilman David Trzcianka, “No offense but what changed other than reading names the rest of us go no other information. And I believe it was tabled to next month who is trying to sneak what tru!!! (sic)”

Trzcianka’s email was ignored — at 9:43 a.m. the secretary sent an email out to Mayor Sam Gagliardi, Police Chief David Christner, and Councilman Kotula, “Got 4 yes votes from… Besong, Kotula, Shelkons, Furr. Didn’t hear back from the others yet… but we got the votes so we can move forward.”

Councilman Trzcianka sent out another email that morning at 10:01 a.m.

“I still think our hiring process is flawed if any othe company went thru this many part timers it would thro a flag at Human Resources,” wrote Trzcianka in part. “I am tired of being bullshitted and only hiring people that the Chief and the Mayor want! I feel like this is being backdoored!!!! (sic)”

Five minutes later at 10:06 a.m., Councilman Kotula sent an email addressed only to the town Secretary, Mayor, and Police Chief, “Thank you Elaine!,” referring to Secretary Elaine Rakovan.

During an interview with the Beaver Countian last month, Council President Judi Montell said she agreed to the hiring of officers, but also raised concerns about the legality of the vote when called by the secretary that day. Montell said she had instructed the secretary to contact the town’s solicitor — emails again appear to bolster Montell’s version of events.

At 11:46 a.m. on the morning in question — after already notifying the town’s Mayor and Police Chief that the motion had passed — Rakovan sent an email telling everyone that the town’s solicitor had halted the vote, “Please note that after conversation with [Solicitor Tony Amato] and [Council President Judi Montell] it is recommended that we wait until next month’s meeting to address the hiring of the Part Time Police.”

It is unclear by what legal process the vote had been invalidated, but everyone the Beaver Countian spoke with agreed the measure was again tabled. The next public meeting of Baden Borough Council is scheduled for Monday, February 19th, at 6:30 p.m. in the town’s municipal building.

Listen To Baden Borough Council Debate The Hiring Of Part-Time Police Before Deciding To Table The Matter For A Month:

See Also:

Baden Borough Stalling Release Of Public Records – Sources Allege Council Hired Police In Secret Vote

Baden Councilman Says He Objected To A Private Phone Vote To Hire Police

Baden Borough Stalls Release Of Additional Public Records So It Can “Assess The Cost Of The Request”

Baden Councilwoman Says She Was Confused By Vote – Excluded From Council’s Prior Phone Votes

Baden’s Mayor And Council President Give Conflicting Accounts Of Private Meeting

34 COMMENTS

  1. This is just flat out dumb and unnecessary for them to vote in secret. If you have the votes to get something done, just do it. Don’t skulk around in the darkness. It’s not like the citizens wouldn’t find out what you did eventually.

    A good question to ask is why a little town like Baden even needs to have its own police force complete with over-paid police chief ? All these small towns with their own King Cops are an expensive relic of a time gone by. Why do you need 6 highly paid police chiefs in such a small area ? Baden , Harmony. Economy, Conway, Freedom and Ambridge all with their own little expensive Kingdoms and taxpayer funded pensions.

     
    • Believe it or not Baden (kudos) was a huge driving force behind a merger of police departments in 2014-2015. The merger would have allegedly been baden, harmony twp, ambridge and if I am not mistaken Conway. The community would have had a nice 20 man full time police department staffed with 4 man crews with a supervisor on each. It was shot down by the other municipality leaders because it would have created a police board eliminating the need for any small community councils having control over such issues that arrise. If you talk to most officers in that area like I have. They will tell you that it needs to happen. better Officers,training,programs,morale,less politics. Now I will tell you that I have lived in each of these places and I truly believe that they all have great officers. But with little money and time for training, sometimes knowledge and resources are limited. With that being said I choose to live in Baden because of the police and fire department here. I know first hand that if anything happens here these men and women are very eager to help and most all would take a bullet or run into a burning home to protect me and my family. That cannot be said the same for other towns located in very close proximity. Sometimes we just need to think outside of that box.

       
      • Oh boy, obviously from someone in the PD or FD. Enough of the patting on the back and more doing. Baden politics is horrible. How bout this, merge the whole town. We pay taxes for a bunch of cops that patrol other towns and more fire equipment than needed. Ask them, do they really need a ladder truck When they’re surrounded by a few of them? Let’s not even get started with the school district, that’s for a whole other talk

         
    • We need all separate around here because not everybody’s child, in-law, relative, golfing buddy, school chum, lover, neighbor, blackmailer, ex-coworker, club member, parishioner…. can be given a job in just a few consolidated communities.

      And how do you keep up the kickbacks, bribes, under the table payments, contracts, “activity” … if you limit the opportunities?

      Like Montell sang,

      “This is how we do it …”

       
  2. Thank- you for your persistence, JP. Keep shining that light!!! I don’t understand why it is so difficult for polititians to follow the laws and do the right thing…Especially disgusted with all politics today.

     
  3. It only takes one vote more than the next person to get elected….no qualifications, no working knowledge, no idea of how to conduct government business, nothing. This is why you have some people like this running your communities.

     
  4. Mark Kolakowski is trying to drain the swamp. I salute him for his dedication to transparency. Council needs a major makeover. Baden residents need to come to Wed. Council meeting.

     
    • Uhmmm…Mark is a weirdo. He creeps all the females out and the guys try to avoid him like the plague when he comes around. He very well might have good intentions but they are overshadowed by his “tall tales” and lack of social cues. Apparently some of Baden council isn’t aware of the lack of Officers available to work or they wouldn’t have wanted to table the issue. Hire a few officers to fill the schedule then you can revamp the hiring process. But hey…what do I know.

       
      • Mark doesn’t understand social cues? After 30+ years in law enforcement I would say he understands social cues better than than you ever will.

        But what do I know? I worked with Mark in law enforcement and as a Private Military Contractor. There is no one I trust more to tell me the truth and he is honest to a fault.

        As far as a social cues. I don’t know many people with social cue issues who never forget to ask about an individual’s wife, kids, and family.

        As for “tall tales”. Is that what people who have never set foot out of their own safe circle call the truth where you are from?

        Since you used a screen name, I have no idea what you know. I’m going to go with nothing.

         
  5. More corruption, lies, deceit, back door meetings…. and the list goes on and on. This needs to stop! Thanks for the great reporting JP! If it wasn’t for you the public would be kept in the dark about everything going on in this county. Keep up the good work!

     
  6. LOL JOHN PAUL GOT VIDEO OF THEM!!!!! LOOOOOOOOOOLLLLLLL!!!!!!

    STUPID OLD FUCKERS JP CAUGHT YOUR DUMB ASSES!!!!

    HAHAHA!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    HEY DISTRICT ATTORNEY LOOOSER PAY ATTENTION JP JUST SCHOOLED YOUR ASS ON HOW TO CATCH FUCKS RED HANDED!!!!!

     
    • County officials are hoping that they will concentrate on who rightfully keeps that new plaque from outside the jury room and also look into the scheduling procedures that cost us the chance to hold the Snow Shovel riding contest in some of the previous several years. That and maybe why local high school sports teams have to travel so far under the new WPIAL classifications and how Beaver missed the football playoffs last season.

      And also, whatever happened to that plan to bring a Popeye’s to Beaver County.

      You know, the issues that capture the imagination of valley residents.

       
  7. Some of the officer turnover is probably due to them leaving for full time opportunities elsewhere. But, not to the extent that they seem to be leaving Baden. What I haven’t yet heard from any of these elected officials is why they aren’t questioning the leadership abilities of their chief of police.

    A strong leader creates a collaborative environment, ensures professional growth and fosters a high level of employee motivation & satisfaction. There are many employees at every level of the pay scale and across many industries who choose to stay in their positions simply because of their manager. One can either manage employees (which is generally micromanagement) or they can lead. It sounds as if the chief is a manager and not a leader and police work is a profession that requires leadership.

    So, perhaps after the elected leaders pay their court mandated fines and complete ARD after they are found guilty of violating the sunshine act they can vote on finding a new police chief; one who inspires and leads.

     
  8. I’m surprised no one’s asked who the cops are? Who are they related to, what’s their connection to the council? It’s hard to believe they are going so far outside the law to hire a bunch of no body’s. JP, whats the rest of the story?

     
  9. They’re gonna be up for re election.
    Remember this!
    These public servants need reminded who they work for.

     
    • Dave is part of the problem. He doesn’t get elected fire chief so now he turns on everyone. That’s how he works. He didn’t have a problem years ago when “his” chief was in there. The PD still had the same problem back then.

       
  10. This goes on in almost every city, township, borough, etc. Here in Beaver Falls they call it an Executive Session where they plan how all the votes are going to go regardless of public opinion.
    This village unrest is sadly old news unless there’s major change and people can’t be bothered to vote so we’re all going to have to deal with it.

     
  11. It would seem that the conditions have been met by this investigation for charges to be filed. Will someone do that? Why report the problem, if nothing is done about it?

    From the link:

    Are there penalties for violating the Sunshine Act?

    Yes. In addition to being assessed attorneys’ fees, any member of an agency who is found to have willfully violated the act can face criminal charges and subject to fines of $100 to $1,000 for the first offense, and $500 to $2,000 for the second offense.

    http://www.openrecords.pa.gov/SunshineAct.cfm

     
  12. Very disappointed in you Ted Kotula. We grew up together, and I thought you had better morals than this. You are not stupid, and I know, you know right from wrong. You know calling secret meetings regarding hiring and attempting to hire via a phone and/or email vote is wrong. Guess your true self came out when you became a politician.

     
  13. Time is running out. Is there not one person who will file suit? It could be a very long time until this opportunity arises again.

     
  14. If one looks closely at the photo accompanying the article, the papers each is holding has the following title, “The Beaver County Courthouse Guide to Secrecy, Fooling the Hapless Public and Getting Away With It.”

     
  15. Amazing! The whole case is spoon fed to law enforcement and citizens, and no one will take it to court. I don’t have the ability, and I don’t have the means, but what does it take to get justice? Do nothing — but don’t EVER complain again.

     
    • I am sorry Raven. There’s not much here. Maybe a small civil penalty at best. I know JP put some work into this, but it’s mostly a procedural issue. Keep digging, there’s plenty of real stories to write about all over the county.

       

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