The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

April 12, 2013

Elementary? Too much so

Daily Item

---- — An enigma unfolded dramatically this past week on the public stage of a Sunbury council meeting, with more political fingerprints than evidence and the mayor's promise to follow the trail to see if it leads to a crime scene.

A former city resident, now from Muncy, announced that Sunbury had failed to collect $2.6 million in revenue due to lax codes enforcement at a redeveloped industrial site. He submitted an accusatory three-page letter while a pair of accompanying attorneys took notes, inviting inferred credibility, or at least seriousness.

Because the city has a codes office with codes officers and a member of council who has the responsibility to oversee that operation, Mayor David Persing wondered whether a finger was being pointed at codes department chairman and council member Joseph Bartello, who coincidentally has an expressed interest in becoming mayor.

Bartello, however, averred persistent and longstanding doubts and beliefs that the new owners of the industrial site had failed to conform to all standards and requisites at the redeveloped property since taking it over in 2010.

The Muncy man believed Bartello's intentions to bring code compliance to the project had been thwarted by Mayor Persing, a perception that Bartello later reinforced, adding that two other members of council have also boxed him in.

Meanwhile, and possibly not coincidentally, the company that has redeveloped the site filed a right-to-know request for information and communications on Councilman Bartello's city laptop computer.

So, vaguely, the scenario is this: One of very few economic events that appeared to be an investment in Sunbury's future during Mayor Persing's administration has been publicly shaded with impropriety to a very specific, attention-grabbing degree: $2.6 million. When probed lightly for foundation, the narrative jumped almost instantaneously to administrative differences between elected officials vying for the same office in the next election.

Without leaping to conclusions, fellow crime-solvers, an honest hunt for motive, means and opportunity would entertain the possibility that this was an opening scene in Sunbury's next mayoral election.

A whiff of personal political agenda is a common traveler on the road to civic progress. Important, enlightening and useful information for self-government regularly emerges from such journeys. So do truckloads of wasteful nonsense, slander, litigation and resentment.

Even decorated by two attorneys, a large, lonely statistic and three pages of suspicion appeared too purposefully vague to be an auspicious debut of truth.