Shamokin cannot confirm its COPS grant pay motion
SHAMOKIN - An audio recording of a city councilman's motion to hire a firm headed by the city clerk's wife does not exist, according to the city clerk himself.
"We reconvened and I did not remember to hit the start button. As does happen often when the executive session comes after the meeting," City Clerk Steve Bartos wrote in an e-mail to The News-Item.
Bartos is the city's open records officer and controls access to public documents.
The News-Item sought the recording to confirm whether or not the city was to pay Meg Bartos' Green Reliance Associates $50 an hour, not to exceed $2,500, for grant-writing services, as previously reported.
The official printed meeting minutes from the May 13 meeting say the firm was to be paid $2,500, with no reference to an hourly rate.
Four city councilmen have said the $50-an-hour rate is how they understood the agreement, but none could say they remembered the motion verbatim. R. Craig Rhoades, who made the motion, recently reiterated that he believes the motion included an hourly rate.
Green Reliance Associates was hired to write an application for a federal grant from the COPS office of the U.S. Department of Justice. It was never received in full by COPS, and the Bartoses have blamed technical errors on the office's website for the failure.
A COPS spokesman confirmed that Meg Bartos reported technical troubles on deadline. No other applicant reported any technical troubles that day, the spokesman said.
Meg Bartos submitted an invoice for 40 hours of work and was paid $2,500. That's 10 hours shy of reaching a $2,500 payment if an hourly rate were in place.
On Aug. 9, Steve Bartos denied a Right-To-Know request to listen to the audio recording, saying the recording "is not an official record." However, state law says it is. He reconsidered the request and on Aug. 30 released a recording of the meeting. The recording is more than 49 minutes long but ends before the motion is made.
At that point, Bartos stops the recording, which is standard procedure for an executive session. When council reconvened and voted unanimously to hire Green Reliance, the city clerk said he forgot to restart the recording.
"We only had one or two items to vote on and (the) tape recorder was not turned on," he wrote in the e-mail.