STEELTON, Pa. (WHTM) – “That is enough!” Steelton Borough Council President Jeffrey Wright yelled as he called for order during the meeting Tuesday night.
It was not the first time that happened; it wouldn’t be the last.
Council voted to take Steelton’s borough manager and police chief off paid leave. Sara Gellatly, the borough manager, is now on unpaid leave. John King, the police chief, is on redemption of annual leave, meaning he will be using personal time off.
The issue is heated because the people of Steelton have been complaining for more than a year about having a hard time getting a hold of Gellatly and King. Abc27 also uncovered ignored Right to Know requests, missing meeting minutes, and building permits King and Gellatly signed off on without codes certification. The last issue prompted a state investigation, ending with formal warnings and a cease and desist notice for the borough.
But the issue that had blood boiling Tuesday night was salary. Abc27 discovered King and Gellatly have received large pay raises over the last two years to make $111,022 and $73,381 in 2014, respectively.
“It’s a personnel issue,” Wright said during the meeting.
“It’s a financial fraud matter!” A man in the audience yelled back as others applauded him. “Because you’re stealing money from us!”
During the meeting, the mayor said King made $85,000 in 2014. But when abc27 pressed him about it after the meeting, citing public records that showed different numbers, the admitted the chief did make more than $111,000 that year – the same number abc27 had reported. He said overtime pay was most likely responsible for the differences in the numbers.
Wright also said during the meeting that Gellatly’s salary in 2012 was $55,000 per year; he said the $39,000+ salary reported by abc27 represented her working a partial year. However, he did not offer documentation to prove that amount, and he did not tell the public why Gellatly’s salary jumped to more than $73,000 two years later.
Another point of ire: At the beginning of the meeting, Wright read a statement from council about Gellatly and King, saying it was a personnel matter that couldn’t be commented on. That item was not on the agenda. However, later in the meeting, people attending were told they were not allowed to comment on items that did not appear on the agenda. Council made it clear that meant concerns about King and Gellatly were not welcome.
“The agenda we were provided wasn’t very comprehensive,” Tagen Dragas, a Steelton realtor said. “There are a lot of issues that aren’t getting addressed and people are very concerned.”
“It makes me angry,” Kirsten Tate-Ham, who lives in Steelton, said after the meeting. “That’s why I had to breathe and ask for peace- to calm my spirit. Because it’s appalling to me.”
The people of Steelton were not the only ones who were frustrated. Several council members were shouting by the end of the meeting as they tried to keep order.
“I got in local government because I wanted to do good for my community,” Councilwoman Maria Marcinko said. “Maybe none of us will want to serve ever again.”
She looked surprised when people in the audience started applauding and saying they didn’t want council members to serve again.
Councilwoman Denae House was not at the meeting. She gave abc27 a statement, saying: “As a citizen of Steelton for three decades, it is my regret to see the current state of affairs regarding Steelton Borough’s management. Leadership starts with Steelton Borough Council and moving forward as a Council, we need to look at these situations openly, honestly, and address these issues in a responsible manner.”