Aliquippa Council’s meeting on Ash Wednesday began with its members and the mayor linking hands in prayer. It devolved into shouting, table pounding and state Grand Jury subpoenas being waved.
The more than two-hour meeting went off the rails at the 1:38:20 mark when Councilwoman Jennifer Milliner recommended that Councilman Matthew Mottes either be suspended or removed from the board.
Referring to an altercation Monday night at the Democratic petition signing at the American Italian Club, Milliner described Mottes’ involvement and “lack of control” as shameful, embarrassing and disrespectful. She said he was unfit to represent the city.
Several candidates for county-wide offices were in attendance, and told BeaverCountian.com that Mottes and his father Peter Mottes instigated an argument with Aliquippa School Board member Catherine Colalella and her boyfriend Anthony Raspberry.
The fracas moved outside, with some witnesses claiming Peter Mottes was hit. Matthew Mottes was holding Raspberry on the ground when police arrived.
Aliquippa Democratic Party Chairman Joe West also alleged that Mayor Dwan Walker threatened him.
West is running for Aliquippa Council as part of a primary ticket with Councilman Mottes, who is running against Walker. West is hoping to take a council seat currently occupied by Dwan’s brother, Donald Walker.
Colalella was in the audience and said Mottes approached her because she had posted on Facebook that he was there supporting former county sheriff George David for reelection. “He doesn’t want people in Aliquippa to know that he’s supporting George David,” she said. Mottes replied her claims aren’t true.
Audience members repeatedly asked city Solicitor Myron Sainovich questions about why the city can’t or won’t take action against Mottes.
Sainovich repeatedly told audience members that the incident happened at a private event and had nothing to do with city business. He said he hadn’t been asked to research whether any potential violations occurred. He mentioned the state Ethics Commission, the county district attorney or the state attorney general could possibly be contacted by individuals.
“This council is not going to investigate itself because that would be inappropriate,” Sainovich said.
Raspberry, also in attendance, grew audibly frustrated with the answers and how to handle the situation.
“I asked you to tell me how to go about it. You haven’t told me how to go about it,” Raspberry said. “So the only way I know to go about it I’ll be fucking wrong. … I’ll handle it my way then. I’m gonna handle it my way.”
Acting Police Chief Robert Sealock said the matter is under investigation. He said statements are being gathered and assured an audience member that a report would be done by next month’s board meeting.
Donald Walker said he had yet to be interviewed about his experience at the petition signing, and that if he were Mottes, he would resign and then later ask for a vote to be let back on the board. “That’s just how I would handle it.”
Donald Walker also accused Mottes of referring to his brother as a thief and a liar. Mottes replied that he’s never said that.
“He’s been talking to the state police for months now, a year now,” Donald Walker said of Mottes.
The Pennsylvania State Police executed a search warrant on the Aliquippa City Building in March 2018 and confirmed the existence of an investigation by the Pennsylvania Statewide Investigating Grand Jury. In May 2018, BeaverCountian.com published an interview with Mottes revealing he had begun working as a confidential source for state police shortly after taking office in January of last year.
“I ran for Council because I wanted to make Aliquippa a better place,” Mottes said at the time. “The things I was seeing in government when I took office were not believable.”
BeaverCountian.com has reported extensively about the activities of law enforcement since then, but the ongoing grand jury proceedings are closed to the public. Details of the grand jury’s findings will be revealed if and when it issues presentments recommending the filing of criminal charges.
At the 2:02:30 mark of Wednesday’s meeting, Dwan Walker starts shouting, and then waved a subpoena, and said he’s been interviewed twice in the grand jury investigation.
“I got subpoenaed,” he shouted. “I ain’t no crook! I ain’t no thief! I never wanna hurt this city, never wanna put a black eye on this city!” He pounded the table with his fist. “Ever! Not ever!” He punctuated the last two words with two more loud bangs.
“You’re not going to damage my name,” he said to Mottes.
Sainovich said he’s also been subpoenaed by the state Attorney General’s Office. “I went up there and I was instructed not to talk about about what they were asking me.” But he then noted that he was asked about city procedures and ordinances “for the last five years.”
Around this time, city Administrator Samuel Gill started waving his subpoena. “Sam was subpoenaed,” Sainovich said. “A lot of people were subpoenaed.”
“I don’t think it’s in the best interest of the city, No. 1, to discuss all those things because sometimes it gives us a black eye and there may be nothing there,” Sainovich said.
The Aliquippa City Council Meeting, which can be watched in its entirety at the top of this report, was recorded by BeaverCountian.com contributing videographer Matthew LaComb.
BeaverCountian.com investigative reporter John Paul contributed to this report.