Baden’s Mayor and Council President are both acknowledging taking part in a private discussion of Borough officials following the town’s public meeting this month where Council voted to table the hiring of part-time police. Although they agree about having a discussion, the two officials are giving vastly different accounts about what took place during the conversation.
Mayor Sam Gagliardi and Council President Judi Montell both tell the Beaver Countian they had a discussion with Councilmen Ted Kotula and John Shelkons that took place minutes after a public meeting on January 17th. Mayor Gagliardi had just cast a tie breaking vote to have the issue of hiring part-time police officers tabled for a month. Montell, Kotula, and Shelkons had all voted to hire the officers that night.
Mayor Gagliardi said that after the January 17th public meeting of Council he attended a planned meeting of the Public Safety Committee that was held in a small conference room in the Borough building, “There was a Committee Meeting, a meeting of the Public Safety Committee after the Council Meeting.”
Gagliardi told the Beaver Countian that the issue of hiring part-time officers was not discussed during the Public Safety Committee meeting because Council had voted to table the issue. He also said the topic of conducting an emergency phone vote to approve the hiring of police was never brought up that night.
“I had no idea they were going to have a phone vote,” said Mayor Gagliardi. “I knew nothing about it, I don’t know who planned it. I am telling you the truth.”
When asked what was discussed at the Public Safety Committee meeting, the Mayor said there were “various things” talked about, although he could not recall any of the topics specifically. He said the Committee meeting had not been recorded and no one present took minutes or notes of any kind.
Mayor Gagliardi told the Beaver Countian that anyone who claims he was part of a discussion about the hiring of part-time police that night or that he knew anything about the subsequent vote “is a liar.”
One of those people is Council President Judy Montell, who told the Beaver Countian there had not been a meeting of the Public Safety Committee the night in question.
“It wasn’t a Committee meeting, I’m not even a member of the Public Safety Committee,” said Montell. “It was a coming to Jesus meeting with the Mayor.”
Councilwoman Montell said that she, Kotula, and Shelkons were all shocked Mayor Gagliardi had voted against hiring the part-time officers that night and wanted an explanation from him why. Montell said Gagliardi had been strongly in favor of approving the hires prior to the meeting.
“I remember saying to the Mayor, why did you choose to break the tie in the ‘No’ vote,” said Montell. “I don’t know what that was about and I never really got an answer.”
She said the hiring of part-time police was just about the only subject of discussion that night, although she can not remember whether the topic of conducting an ’emergency’ phone vote had been brought up.
“As far as I am concerned it was not an emergency,” said Montell. “I’m told one of the officers that was going to resign didn’t resign so we don’t need all of those officers now.”
Council President Judy Montell said she was surprised when she got a call two days later asking her to vote on hiring the part-time officers.
“I was doing some stuff in my house and my phone rang and it was [the secretary],” said Montell. “It came as a surprise to me […] I said, I have no problem with hiring the police officers, I just want to make sure that this is legal. I wasn’t comfortable with the vote and I asked her to call the attorney. This happened I want to say 11:00 am, about 1:00 pm she called me back, she said he advised against it, he didn’t think it was the appropriate way to go.”
Judy Montell said the phone vote is void and she now plans to vote to approve the part-time hires at the next public meeting in February, “I would love to hire full-time police officers and never have to worry about this, but we can’t afford it.”
Montell insists she does not know who requested the phone vote take place and never bothered to ask who initiated it.
“I hope you can figure this all out because I can’t,” she told the Beaver Countian. “Do your investigative work and let me know when you’re done.”