State legislators mull options to remove embattled West York mayor

West York Mayor Charles Wasko
West York Mayor Charles Wasko

YORK, Pa. (WHTM) – Council members want him out, and now state legislators are examining their options to remove the embattled mayor of the borough of West York from office following racist and discriminatory posts to his Facebook page.

It comes a day after the council unanimously censured Mayor Charles Wasko but could not force him out.

The Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus may be the group to lead the way, along with Rep. Kevin Schreiber (D-York), who’s condemned Wasko’s social media activity.

“So, the overwhelming sentiment of wanting to see Mayor Wasko be jettisoned out of office certainly should shape Rep. Schreiber’s actions,” PLBC executive director Brandon Flood said Tuesday.

The group said in a statement they’re looking at all legal options to hold Wasko accountable for the “hateful postings.”

West York Mayor Charles Wasko
West York Mayor Charles Wasko

The York NAACP joined in the fight to have Wasko, who ran unopposed in 2013, removed, too. They’re “looking at everything,” president Sandra Thompson said, and encouraging lawmakers to do something even if take a while.

Governor Tom Wolf will support the Senate, press secretary Jeff Sheridan said, if they try to kick the mayor out of office.

“The actions of the West York mayor are beyond reprehensible, and Governor Wolf believes he should absolutely resign immediately,” Sheridan said in a statement. “The mayor’s comments are shameful and racist, and this kind of bigotry has no place in society, let alone government.”

Wakso did not respond to requests Tuesday for comment on his possible removal but has indicated no intention of stepping down.

In a previous interview with ABC27, Wasko stood by his First Amendment right to free speech. “The racist stuff, I admit, yeah, I did that. And I don’t care what people label me as,” he said.

He had some support at Monday’s council meeting, although he didn’t show up himself.

“Are you going to start punishing everyone just because they don’t agree with what you think and believe?” one man asked.

But the vast majority of speakers during the public comment period were upset by the social media posts and urged him to resign. An online petition to the same effect topped 1,700 signatures by Tuesday evening.

Failing that, there are three ways under the state constitution to remove a public official. The first pertains to criminal actions, and that isn’t relevant here.

The second is under Article VI, Section 7. It says officials must “behave themselves well while in office” and allows for removal for “reasonable cause.”

But that route requires a two-thirds Senate vote. It’s the option the governor’s office appeared to reference and support; it’s also the option some lawmakers used to try to remove former Attorney General Kathleen Kane from office, which didn’t work.

The third option is impeachment under Article VI, Section 6, which says all civil officers can be impeached for any “misbehavior” in office. That’s up to the House to get started, and some lawmakers appear up to the task.

Flood said those legal options aren’t even really necessary.

“If anyone needed a more compelling reason for why they should come out to vote, certainly this is a perfect example,” he said.

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