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March 27, 2013

Council deadlocks on vacancy: Task of filling Wilson’s seat may fall to court

JOHNSTOWN — The vacancy on Johnstown City Council remains.

On Wednesday, the board’s six current members held a special meeting to select a successor for Ann Wilson, 47, who died on Feb. 19.

No consensus was reached, however, when a vote between two nominated candidates ended tied 3-3. Frank Janakovic, Rose Howarth and Marie Mock supported Anthony “Red” Pinizzotto, a Democrat.

Mayor Thomas Trigona, Pete Vizza and William Gentile Jr. backed Republican Fred Mickel.

“Right now, unfortunately, with Ann’s passing, it’s a split vote,”  Janakovic said.

Pinizzotto, a former city councilman, was the only person among the 13 applicants for the vacant position who also plans to run in this year’s primary.

“He has many years of experience being on council,” Janakovic said.

Mickel, a Roxbury resident, was a close friend of Wilson, the only Republican on council at the time of her passing. Her term was set to expire at the end of this year.

“He wanted to see if he could fill out her term for her,” Vizza said before adding, “I looked at all the applicants, looked at their resumes, looked at all the applications; I thought Fred Mickel was the most qualified and articulate guy out of the group. It was an easy decision for me to pick the most qualified guy, Fred Mickel.”

Mickel, whose background is in banking, is a math instructor with the Greater Johnstown High School SAT prep class.

“The guy’s not afraid of a balance sheet,” Vizza said.

According to the city’s home rule charter, council has 45 days from the time of a board member’s death to fill the vacancy. In Wilson’s case, the deadline will be April 4.

 If the tie cannot be broken by that date, then any five electors in Johnstown or council can petition the Cambria County courts to fill the vacancy.

A judge or panel of judges would then pick the new council member. Either Pinizzotto, Mickel, any of the other applicants or another resident of the city could be selected.

“Quite honestly, it’s at the discretion of the court at that point,” Solicitor Dave Andrews said.

Wilson also was serving as deputy mayor when she died. The vote to fill that vacancy split 3-3.

Janakovic was nominated and received votes from himself, Howarth and Mock. Vizza received three votes.

A new deputy mayor will likely not be selected until the issue of the vacant council seat is decided.

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