This is a guest post from Mario Fiorucci. He is the Democratic candidate for Mayor of Sugar Notch.
SugarGate: Cover-up or just confusion?
At the Sugar Notch Council meeting in May, Council President James Mullin asked for approval to pay $2,700 of the $5,400 owed to the Commonwealth of PA. It was owed because 'taxes' on the Liquid Fuels Fund had to be paid to 'unfreeze' the account so the borough could use the money for road repairs, etc. At the council's next meeting in June, I (Mario Fiorucci), asked why taxes were owed on the Liquid Fuels Fund, which itself is funded by gasoline taxes. Council President JM insisted that the money owed to the state was to pay back employee payroll taxes that were not paid for over a year. I questioned his explanation and asked to see the minutes of the May meeting. They did not mention a word about how taxes were owed on the fund or that the check for $2,700 was approved to send to the state. Not a word about the whole thing was mentioned!
Luckily, a Citizens' Voice reporter was at the June meeting. In a report titled "Sugar Notch back taxes questioned", reporter Robert Olsen said "What it sounded like was there was money missing from the liquid fuels account that had to be paid back." I said "There was money missing from the refuse (Garbage) account, it's happened before." I thought the state found that the town misappropriated money from the fund and wanted it returned. The town has been running in the red and there were rumors that the mayor had to bail out the town with his own money at least two times for the last few years.
The article also said that I requested a copy of the meeting 'minutes' from May and had found that 'there was no mention of the $5,400 owed in them'. Council President JM said that the "unpaid taxes were discovered when the borough hired a new accountant. She reported the discrepancy to the state, which then froze the Liquid Fuels Fund." The article also quoted JM as saying he "failed to recall if anything was said about the problem or the request to approve the payment at May's meeting." He wasn't sure why it wasn't in the minutes. To me, this explanation was insufficient and still poses the question, "Was the money diverted from the employee payroll taxes so it could be used to just help keep the town running?"
At the regular July council meeting, I said "I know I heard council President JM ask for the check approval. If he did not, then how could I have been able to bring this subject up at the June meeting? And at the June meeting, not one council member volunteered to back me up by saying "they remember that a check for $2,700 was approved..or not" It seems that stealth government has returned to Sugar Notch, yet again.
I also asked the council and mayor to explain the payroll process. I thought the mayor was in charge of scheduling the police and maintenance employees. But they said that the Chief of Police Pelchar schedules hours for the police dept. employees. And councilman, Pat Dalton, schedules hours for the road crew. After they submit pay requests, the Treasurer issues checks. I then asked if the money was 'missing' and just 'not paid' as they claim. They said no money was missing. I do not have a lot of confidence in the council's ability to oversee an antique accounting and budget process. And from what I heard about the town, it has not paid the employee payroll taxes before, because several times when the town had to lay-off the road crew, for lack of funds usually, the state had to call the town to pay in it's taxes, so the road crew could file and get their unemployment checks! Things need to change in Sugar Notch and that includes looking at consolidation.
10 hours ago