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Schuylkill County News

St. Clair’s Mayor Accuses Council Members of Conducting Business in Private Group Texts

St. Clair Mayor Richard Tomko is accusing several members of Borough Council of conducting business and coming to a consensus on upcoming votes through a group text chain.

He also says there are issues with some officials’ ethics forms.

During his report at the council meeting on Tuesday, Tomko used the final portion of his report to council to chastise some council members on their alleged activity behind closed doors, or outside the eyes of the public. 

Tomko says he listened to discussion at the previous council meeting and then conducted more investigations into those discussions and has determined that some members of council are part of a group text chain that’s used to conduct borough business and come to a consensus on votes prior to meetings.

If true, it would be a gross violation of Pennsylvania’s Sunshine laws which forbid any votes or discussions on government matters from taking place outside the eyes of the public.

“I have come to the conclusion that a majority of borough council members have been part of a group text for some time on which borough business is discussed and votes are taken and consensus reached,” Tomko said last week.

He added, “These votes would be considered illegal and certainly, improper.”

Tomko said the council members involved in this alleged group text chain should stop it immediately. Otherwise, if an investigation is launched into them, it could reflect badly on St. Clair and the council members directly.

“I hope that these actions were taken out of ignorance of the law, rather than a willful attempt to circumnavigate the laws regarding public meetings and the public’s right to know,” Tomko said.

The mayor reminded those part of this alleged group text chain that, “The borough council is not a social media group. Local borough councils can not make up their own laws to govern their actions.”

Alleged Ethics Forms Violations

Tomko didn’t stop at the accusations of a private group text chain among Borough Council members either.

He also suggests in his lengthy monologue that some members of council have improperly filled out and signed their ethics forms.

“It appears to me that some elected officials signed these official state forms without reading the instructions as to what constitutes direct income over $1,300 a year,” Tomko said. 

Clearly, Tomko has inspected these ethics forms and said Tuesday that one elected official on Borough Council “appears to have no visible means of support … no direct income for the entire year of 2023.”

Tomko urged all council members and other government officials required to complete this ethics form to revisit what they’ve already signed to make sure they didn’t put their signature on a falsified document.

Exactly who is part of this alleged group text chain and who might have falsified their ethics forms was not disclosed by Tomko. 

No member of Borough Council present for Tuesday’s meeting publicly responded to Tomko’s accusations.

(Note: The Canary was unable to attend this St. Clair council meeting in person. Reports on this meeting were compiled after watching a recorded stream.)

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