SELINSGROVE — Two Selinsgrove borough council members were replaced on the finance committee.
Council member Richard Mease, citing a need for transparency and other reasons, proposed during Wednesday’s public meeting that council President Marvin Rudnitsky and council member Sara Lauver be removed from the finance committee.
The motion was approved by a 6-1 vote. Rudnitsky opposed the move.
“This is for the betterment of Selinsgrove,” said Mease.
Rudnitsky said he intended to reorganize committees but hadn’t had the chance due to recent travel. While he supports the change, he opposed removing Lauver from the committee.
“It isn’t the way I wanted,” Rudnitsky said Thursday morning. “Sara Lauver is the most experienced in grant writing. I wanted to keep her on.”
Mease and council member Scott Frost were appointed to replace Rudnitsky and Lauver — and join council member Bobbie Owens — on the finance committee which has been the focus of much discussion in the past 1 1/2 years.
At issue is the transfer of public funds from the borough-administered Rudy Gelnett Trust to the Regional Engagement Center (REC), a nonprofit organization led by Rudnitsky’s daughter, Kelly Feiler.
The REC — which opened at 429 8th St. in Selinsgrove in October 2017 — has received $272,885 from the trust since 2018.
Last year, Owens, who chairs the finance committee, announced all of the committee’s discussion of funds involving the REC would be done at the public meeting to avoid potential conflict due to Rudnitsky’s relationship with Feiler, who is a paid president of the REC.
Lauver became a focus of attention last spring when she failed to initially disclose taking a paid trip with Feiler to a Mexico resort in August 2021. All elected officials are required by law to disclose financial gifts of $250 or more to the State Ethics Commission.
“I think there were actual conflicts. This eliminates actual or perceived conflicts,” said Frost.
Frost, who is employed as a financial advisor, noted that the borough was spending money and time due to potential conflict concerns expressed several times by borough solicitor Robert Cravitz and Owens’ decision to only discuss financial matters involving the REC at public meetings.
Acknowledging that the discussion of public funds being awarded to the REC has been an issue, Rudnitsky said the committee member changes could “relieve the tension.”
In addition to transparency, Mease said, there were other reasons for removing Rudnitsky and Lauver from the committee.
“It’s my belief that the council president shouldn’t be on any committee. They should serve as an alternate,” said Mease, a veteran council member who has served for nearly 12 years.
As for Lauver, he said, she had been a member of both the finance and public facilities committees, two committees that involve more time than others.
“That’s a lot of work,” said Mease.
Lauver, who now serves on the public facilities and community development committees, supported the reorganization.
“We have discussed this a couple of times, how we can be most efficient,” she said. “I just want to use my skills.”