CANTON — Calamity continued in Canton Borough Monday night as a motion was made to fire current administrator and treasurer Amy Seeley.
Following a motion approved by the Canton Borough Council last month to remove part of the Canton Borough Code that requires a board administrator to be notified of termination 90 days prior to their final day in the position, the board found that they must re-motion the change and entertained discussion on the termination of Seeley on Monday.
Attorney Zachary Gates, who was representing Seeley told the board that changes to the borough code, such as removing the 90-day clause, must be made effective through an ordinance and are therefore subject to being publicly announced before they can be carried out.
Canton Borough Council re-voted to remove the 90-day clause this time through an ordinance with all yes votes except for board member Lynette Ambruch, who voted no.
Former Borough President Michael Shultz gave a lengthy opinion rallying in support of Seeley during the meeting, pointing out that during the January meeting Seeley was unanimously appointed by the council to be permitted to move money as well as approved for other responsibilities as well as given a pay raise in the final budget.
Shultz also stated that though Schrader made a comment during the January meeting that “nowhere in the world” are administrators given a 90-day notice before termination that multiple other Bradford County municipalities carry a similar 90-day code and that it allows necessary actions like the payment of bills and payroll to be completed as someone is found to take on the role.
Shultz continued by questioning whether Seeley would be “grandfathered into” the 90-day clause if she was terminated because the code was valid when she was reappointed in December, implying that Schrader had a “grudge to settle” with Seeley and that a possible “conspiracy” between Schrader and other members of council had come into play as Schrader unsuccessfully moved for the termination of Solicitor David Brann last month.
“He (Schrader) made several statements that all had I in them and never once referenced the community that he is supposed to represent nor did he ever state that the citizens of the borough wanted this,” Shultz said regarding Schrader’s actions during the January Canton Borough meeting.
“Council, you guys need to set your personal feelings aside, your displeasures with your coworkers, with your administrators, with other council members,” Shultz continued. “Both the administrators and the borough attorney work for the council and follow their direction, perhaps if you don’t like how they did things before you should be upset with the prior council as they were following their direction. Some of those people up there were on that prior council and I don’t believe there were any prior complaints then.”
Lauren Schoonover also voiced support for Seeley and stated that she was speaking as a representative of Canton’s Shade Tree Commission and for her brother who represents the Chamber of Commerce and their mother who represents the Rialto Theater though they could not attend the meeting.
Schoonover said that Seeley is “invaluable” and that the Shade Tree Commission could not function without her.
When questioned as to why he is in favor of firing Seeley, Schrader stated, “As she (Seeley) asked in a previous meeting, she asked me what my beef was and so did George (Jennings) and as I’ve stated there was none other than I was not pleased. And again, I had no personal beef, I don’t, but...the reason that all these issues and stuff even came to me was, again, citizens came to me. I have had multiple, multiple people come to me before I was even thinking about running with the issues of things.”
Shultz asked why the people who have vocalized a desire for Seeley to be fired did not attend the meetings and Schrader stated that he did not know, that he has encouraged them to come and agrees they should attend.
“Everybody that I have spoken to, that comes to me I mean I don’t go to them, they just feel that some new blood, some new things have to be done. So as their representative I feel it is necessary to do what they have asked me,” he commented. “The number of people in here or that have come to the meetings for her is way less than the amount of people that have come against to me.”
“So if it’s not important enough for them to come and stand up for what they believe in why are you pushing it,” asked Holly Shultz, a Canton Borough citizen and the wife of Michael Shultz. “I’m here because I’m concerned after what I read in the paper that you’re going after somebody who has done nothing but good for our community, she has a job that no one else wants, she does an amazing job...the people that are talking to you and telling you that she should be fired, for what? What is she doing wrong? You were asked last month and you had nothing, I’m asking you now. She does her job and she does it well...if she’s done something wrong to these people than they should be here not just telling you to come and fire her.”
Schoonover stated that she believes the individuals speaking against Seeley “don’t understand how many entities of this community that would fall apart without Amy here.”
Seeley questioned Schrader if all the individuals who have come to him with opinions against her are Canton Borough citizens to which he replied yes, then that he was not positive that every one of them is.
“You don’t get on council for an agenda,” Canton Borough Police Chief and husband of Amy Seeley Doug Seeley told Schrader. “You’re here to work for the community and do things to make a better community not to fire people. You’re here for the wrong reasons.”
Schrader stated that one reason he feels Amy Seeley should be removed is regarding concerns of “how employees and council members are treated” and the creation of a “hostile work environment.”
Board member George Jennings stated that while he worked for the borough for 18 years he and Seeley “had their differences” but that he “wouldn’t want her job.”
Canton Borough President and road crew employee David Groover stated that he feels there have been times he has been “treated very poorly” by Seeley but that he views it as a personal situation not having to do with her position as administrator.
Amy stated that she follows procedures set by council in dealing with employees so if there’s a problem they should take it up with council.
Shultz commented that while issues of a conflict of interest regarding Amy Seeley serving as administrator while her husband Doug Seeley is police chief have been brought up by Schrader in the past, he feels individuals who are employed by the borough also serving on the board (both Groover and board member Kurt Bastion are both board members and road crew employees) is a bigger conflict of interest.
Bastion pointed out that individuals who are employed by the borough are permitted by law to serve as council members as well in municipalities with a population of less than 3,000.
Schrader also explained that while concerns were raised in the January meeting as to how financial actions like payroll and bills being paid would be carried out if Seeley were to be fired, the actions could be delegated to the appointed secondary secretary treasurer Lonna Bly if she was willing and if not another individual would be hired.
Schrader’s motion to terminate Seeley did not receive a second and therefore was not carried.
Fifth grade ELA students at Lynch-Bustin Elementary are about $600 shy of an $1,800 fundraising goal for the Water for South Sudan organization.
“They’re drilling wells all of the time,” teacher Erica Greer explained about the organization. “They’re trying to get as much money as they can to continue building them for as many villages in South Sudan as they can.”
According to students presenting during Tuesday’s Athens School Board meeting, the effort was inspired by the book “A Long Walk to Water” by Linda Sue Park.
“Dirty water can kill people and it also spreads diseases,” said student Alexis Cocco. “Many people in Sudan have to walk for hours to get water for their families. Every day, with the help of Salva (Water for South Sudan founder Salva Dut) and his friends, wells are being built in the villages so people have easier access to clean water.”
As student Brycen Wood explained, a series of Wildcat Water Wednesdays have helped promote the cause and raise money, including a school-wide pajama day and gently used sneaker drive with GotSneakers that not only provides shoes to those in need through business partners in Haiti, Nicaragua, Bolivia, and Ukraine, but also earns up to $3 per pair for the school. Wood said the school collected nearly 200 pairs of sneakers.
Greer showed a picture of five full bags of donated sneakers, and said she has reached out to the company for eight more bags so they can ship them all out.
Wood said upcoming fundraisers include a teacher 50/50 drawing, teacher dress down day, and a penny war with a pie in the face for the losing teachers.
“Mr. Toscano (Principal John Toscano) has also willingly agreed to let the winning class pie him in the face,” Wood added.
Through their fundraising efforts, student Lilley Watkins said they have been entered into the Iron Giraffe Challenge and could win either win a meet-and-greet or video chat with Dut.
“It’s been awesome to see the kids and their interest in this book,” Greer said. “If you haven’t read this, I highly recommend it.”
Those wishing to support the fundraising efforts can make checks out to Water for South Sudan.
“Thank you for your support, and now let’s help build a well,” Watkins said.