The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Editorials

January 5, 2014

Good ol' boys strike again | Authority seat filled in backroom deal

JOHNSTOWN — Johnstown has long been reviled for its backroom political dealings, and, right up until his final days in office, Mayor Tom Trigona lived down to that reputation.

We’re appalled at how Trigona, who will be replaced by Frank Janakovic this week, handled one of his final official duties – a reappointment to the Johnstown Redevelopment Authority.

Lame-duck political appointments are nothing new, and Trigona had every right to make one. What’s so disappointing is the way that he handled the reappointment of Brian Vuletich to a full term.

There was no official announcement and the reappointment was not mentioned during a City Council meeting last week. Instead, our Randy Griffith reported, the appointment was made in relative secrecy. It wasn’t done in the dark of night, but rather in the light of day – but, conveniently, it came during a lunchtime ceremony at a nearly empty City Hall. Trigona, Vuletich, Councilman Pete Vizza and a notary public were the only ones present, Vuletich told Griffith.

We don’t begrudge Vuletich the position. He has served our region in a number of capacities, including the past three years on the redevelopment authority, and we wish him well on the board.

We are, however, very disappointed in Trigona’s cloak-and-dagger tactics. Why didn’t he make the reappointment known to his constituents? If he was confident that the move was the right one, why try to hide it? Why not make a public comment on it and explain the reasoning behind his decision?

Better yet, why wouldn’t Trigona return calls from The Tribune-Democrat regarding the reappointment?

Trigona’s reluctance to address the situation put Vuletich, perhaps unfairly, in the position of having to defend the move for the mayor.

“There is nothing to hide here,” Vuletich said. “Firmly, I believe I am the best candidate for the job.”

Not surprisingly, businessman Mark Pasquerilla, who has openly campaigned for an appointment to the redevelopment authority, has spoken out on the matter. Pasquerilla has urged the ouster of Trigona, who will remain in his self-appointed seat on the redevelopment authority even after he is succeeded by Janakovic as mayor.

“He should resign and give an appointment to Mayor Janakovic,” Pasquerilla said.

We agree. Trigona is not concerned with serving the people of Johnstown in an open and forthright manner. His actions last week prove as much.

The redevelopment authority, which was stained by scandal last year when longtime executive director Ron Repak was fired for double-dipping, should aim for transparency.

Having Trigona step down and allowing Janakovic to infuse the board with some new blood would be a good first step.

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