Outgoing Johnstown Mayor Thomas Trigona’s unannounced reappointment of Brian Vuletich to a full term on Johns-town Redevelopment Authority raises more questions about the controversial agency, a prominent businessman who sought the appointment said Monday.
There has been no official announcement, and the appointment was not mentioned during Monday’s City Council meeting when Trigona was among those honored with plaques for their service.
But The Tribune-Democrat has learned that Trigona made the appointment and held a swearing-in ceremony at lunchtime Friday in City Hall. Trigona, Vuletich, Councilman Pete Vizza and a notary public were the only ones present, Vuletich said.
Lack of transparency is “the whole problem,” businessman Mark Pasquerilla said.
Pasquerilla has submitted his application for at least the past three redevelopment authority openings. Trigona did not contact him for an interview this time, he said.
“People who are concerned with the city of Johnstown – taxpayers and investors – either need to get the answers on the redevelopment authority or they need to do some proctology and find out what Mr. Trigona is really trying to hide,” Pasquerilla said.
He points to the authority board’s decision to allow its longtime executive director, Ron Repak, to remain on the job at full salary after being informed he was the subject of a federal investigation.
Repak was fired in February for accepting money from Conemaugh Health System as a consultant for development of the former Greater Johns-town Technology Park, now Conemaugh Medical Park. But it was at least 18 months after an auditor reported the federal investigation.
“Is there a coverup?” Pasquerilla said. “Is Mayor Trigona part of the coverup? There are still so many questions about the former executive director and what the reason was that he was allowed to stay on.”
Pasquerilla said he is able to accept Vuletich’s appointment, but said Trigona should step down from his self-appointed seat on the authority
board and allow incoming Mayor Frank Janakovic to name a replacement.
“He should resign and give an appointment to Mayor Janakovic,” Pasquerilla said.
Trigona did not return calls to The Tribune-Democrat on Monday, but Vizza and Vuletich defended the appointment.
“I know it’s the mayor’s perogative to put in there who he wants,” Vizza said, admitting he was not privy to the selection process. “He has faith in Brian Vuletich,” Vizza said.
“There is nothing to hide here,” Vuletich said. “Firmly, I believe I am the best candidate for the job.
“I have served on the board for the last three years. I think that people would recognize that I did a good job. I am honored that Mayor Trigona reappointed me.”
State law gives mayors the sole authority for redevelopment authority appointments. But it allows current board members to continue until a replacement is named.
A Johnstown case dating back 16 years defines Trigona’s authority for a lame-duck appointment.
At the end of 1997, outgoing Mayor Linda Weaver appointed Allegra Rastall to replace Willis DeBouse on the authority board. Allegra Rastall’s husband, Todd Rastall, had just been defeated by Don Zucco in the November 2007 mayoral election.
Zucco took office in January 1998 and promptly reversed the appointment, keeping DeBouse on the authority. Allegra Rastall filed suit in county court, claiming her appointment was repealed for political reasons.
The case made it to the state Supreme Court, which ruled against Zucco and the city. Allegra Rastall was reinstated.
Randy Griffith is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/photogriffer57.