SUGAR NOTCH – The borough council meeting ended abruptly Wednesday night as Mayor William Davis, who was presiding when tempers flared, halted a debate over allegations that Councilman Mario Fiorucci was requesting leniency for a defendant arrested by a borough officer.
Near the end of a meeting riddled with outbursts and arguments, Fiorucci, who is also director of roads, stopped before giving his report and presented a printout from the Sugar Notch Police Association’s Facebook fan page.
He referenced a specific post made earlier that day by the association. According to the post, an unidentified councilman had asked for leniency for a criminal.
“How about a councilman showing up at a preliminary hearing to show support and ask for leniency for a criminal,” the post said.
Fiorucci asked Police Chief Chris Pelchar if he had made the post and if it were in reference to him.
Pelchar said the police association is a community-run organization and, though it supports the department, is not responsible to the borough. He declined to answer Fiorucci’s question, but confirmed later that he had written the post.
Fiorucci said he had been in the courtroom that day, Feb. 19., because two of his neighbors had been in a fight and were to appear before District Judge Joseph Halesey. Fiorucci said he was late and missed his friends’ hearing, but arrived in time for Gregory Richards’ hearing, who is also his neighbor and was attending arraignment for his 10th burglary charge, crimes he allegedly committed to support his heroin addiction.
Fiorucci said he made a joke with the chief.
“I said, ‘Well, I’m here to turn myself in,’ ” Fiorucci said. “I was kidding him because they’re always trying to get me on trespassing … and I just laughed.”
He said he asked about the judge’s ruling for his neighbor and that was all he said.
But Pelchar said the humorous conversation never happened. He said Fiorucci told him he was there for Richards. Pelchar also confirmed that Fiorucci’s neighbors appeared before the judge just before Richards’ arraignment.
Pelchar said he overheard Fiorucci talking in the room, saying that Richards needs compassion.
The police chief said, above all, he was concerned that a councilman was speaking for a defendant, not the victims. “If I could say anything, it’s that someone has to speak for the victims,” Pelchar said.
Earlier in Wednesday’s meeting, volunteer Fire Chief Joe Rutkoski asked Fiorucci about road-clearing priorities during snowstorms.
On Feb. 8, fire department volunteers responded to a possible structure fire at 9:45 p.m. It was snowing heavily that night and fire truck engineer Mark Wasickanin said that despite driving at only 2 or 3 mph he lost control of the truck moving downhill.
Wasickanin said he hit about 3 inches of snow as soon as he pulled out of the station garage. Many people were upset at the meeting because borough plows always have prioritized emergency routes during storms.
Fiorucci, a three-year councilman who has served as director of roads for a year and a half, said he is in charge of policy. He said it is not his job to follow road crews to make sure they prioritize plowing.
“I don’t go out and drive around with them,” Fiorucci said. “I don’t know when to call them every minute and when not to. That’s how it is.”
Victor Vega, a resident, several times called for the council to move beyond the bickering and put things in place to prevent accidents.
“I’m addressing the borough in general,” Vega said. “I believe adults run the borough. I believe adults run the road crew.”