Councilman, mayor point fingers over ‘disrespect’

Sparks flew at the City Council meeting Thursday night as Mayor Gabriel J. Campana and Council President Jonathan Williamson got into a verbal spar, one that led to each accusing the other of playing political games.

When a motion for suspending rules and voting on appointment of city resident Georgia Stover to Williamsport Municipal Water and Sanitary Authority died, Campana became upset and his voice rose.

“Total disrespect and political games, again, and the television audience will see this,” Campana said.

Williamson drew in a breath.

“I am going to restrain myself for the television audience . . . to the extent of the political games the mayor plays.”

Stover, meanwhile, withdrew her name from consideration to be on the authority about 12 hours before the council meeting. Williamson was notified about that and withdrew that item from the agenda.

He also asked city Solicitor Norman Lubin if he could call for a suspension of the rules and asked for the motion to do so from council. The motion died as council remained silent.

Stover may be reconsidered in two weeks for a vote, but that didn’t matter to Campana.

“She’s already been to the public works committee,” he said. “She’s ready to go. This shows a total lack of respect for a citizen. It is quite embarrassing.”

“Excuse me, Mr. Mayor,” Williamson said at one point.

Campana said Stover would make an excellent authority member, one who has bookkeeping knowledge and is willing to do research and listen and learn.

Stover said as much to two members of the public works committee.

The mayor is seeking more diversity and offering the invitation to be on city committees, commissions and authorities to more women and minorities. Council, however, suspects the mayor is seeking to appoint individuals he favors and influences directly or indirectly and wants the authority to pay for city infrastructure.

Campana acknowledged he would have a renegotiated agreement on the transfer of city stormwater control systems after dismantling the existing one and adding pressure for the authority to pay up.

“We can negotiate a far better deal than $1,” Campana said, adding his deal would help eliminate any potential real estate tax increase in the 2018 proposed budget his is preparing to release in late November.

Campana said he has support from William E. Nichols Jr., city finance director, and the general manager of River Valley Transit, and Rebecca Haladay, the city engineer, to seek a better financial package with the authority.

“I want to sell a vacuum truck used by city Streets and Parks Department that is estimated at more than $200,000,” Campana said. “I want the city to recuperate investments in stormwater infrastructure on William and Church streets.”

Council hasn’t removed the resolution to approve transfer of the operations for stormwater control systems but has delayed it by placing it on the table, jargon for keeping it alive for a potential future vote.