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January 12, 2013

Business leader snubbed: Pasquerilla upset after passed over for authority post

JOHNSTOWN — A local businessman is crying “foul” after being snubbed for a third time in appointments to Johnstown Redevelopment Authority.

Mark Pasquerilla lambasted Johns­town Mayor Tom Trigona’s hasty reappointment of Msgr. Raymond Balta, calling it “intolerable” in the wake of a report confirming an investigation of an authority staffer.

“It’s typical. I think it’s wrong,” Pasquerilla said of the unannounced Jan. 3 swearing-in ceremony at City Hall.

“The Redevelopment Authority wants to run things like a secret society.”

Trigona said he made no public announcement of the appointment until Wednesday’s Johnstown City Council meeting because he wanted to let his fellow council members hear the news first.

Pasquerilla said he asked Trigona for the appointment and was still publicly campaigning for the post Jan. 6 in an advertisement in The Tribune-Democrat. It was the third time Pasquerilla was passed over.

The mayor did not respond until Wednesday to repeated inquiries by The Tribune-Democrat about the pending appointment.

“I am more than disappointed,” Pasquerilla said. “I am upset. This is a slap in the face to business leaders.”

New leadership is needed, Pasquerilla said, pointing to a note about the investigation included in the authority’s 2010 annual audit.

“We have ‘become aware through direct knowledge that a governmental investigation exists related to the activities of a responsible authority employee.’ However the scope and conclusion of the investigation is unknown at this time,” the Wessel & Co. auditor wrote in the final report, filed in midsummer 2011.

Authority and city officials have provided no additional details.

Balta said he is honored with the reappointment and plans to continue updating the Johns­town Regional Sewage billing system to make it equitable to all customers.

“We will continue to explore various opportunities in the gas industry,” Balta continued.

Balta spearheaded efforts to bring a proposed wastewater treatment plant to the authority’s Rosedale property. Aspen Johnstown LLC is targeting contaminated water that is a byproduct of the burgeoning Marcellus Shale gas drilling industry.  

Pasquerilla questioned Balta’s role as an administrator for the project.

“I don’t think Msgr. Balta is qualified to be the acting executive director of the redevelopment authority,” Pasquerilla said. “This soap opera has gone on long enough.”

Pasquerilla said his business experience would be an asset to the authority.

“I know what I could do,” he said “We could move beyond this.”

Another well-known businessman supports Pasquerilla.

“I think that the redevelopment authority is remiss in not appointing Mark Pasquerilla,” JWF Industries CEO Bill Polacek said.

“He has a longstanding family history in this town, and he’s one of the largest taxpayers. He would bring a lot of value and insight.

“He is the type of person we need on city boards to move the town forward.”

Trigona said Balta’s experience as chairman of the authority helped lead to the reappointment.

“There were so many who wanted it,” Trigona said. “I figured he was the chairman, just continue. I wish we could appoint more.”

Balta joins retired businessman M. John Mavrodis, accountant Karen Varga, Greater Johnstown High School radio station manager Brian Vuletich and Trigona on the five-member authority board. All are appointed to five-year terms by Johnstown’s mayor.  

This is not the first time Pasquerilla has criticized city programs. In December 2010, he lashed out at the “anti-business” administration when the city raised rates on its part of sewer bills, hitting Pasquerilla-owned Johnstown Holiday Inn-Downtown.

Although the rate hike is funding required upgrades throughout communities served by redevelopment authority-owned Johnstown Regional Sewage, Pasquerilla said his latest criticism is not related to sewer rates.

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