December 17, 2012
SHICKSHINNY – Anyone who has attended Shickshinny council and sewer authority meetings regularly in the past knows just how nasty small-town politics can get.
Snide remarks, name calling, wishes of physical harm upon another, even an alleged assault have occurred in recent history among members of the boards.
Now, politics have shaken up a community organization that is supposed to be non-political and borough officials can't agree on the context of remarks made by one of the organization's members at the most recent council meeting.
The latest problem began at a council meeting two weeks ago after Shickshinny Forward Vice President Clarence Lewis presented plaques to people for their work to help the town recover from flood devastation in 2011.
Lewis then criticized Mayor Beverly Moore and asked council to censure her; demanded fire department records from Councilman Kevin Morris, who is also fire chief, claiming that money may have been misspent; and asked for an investigation into alleged misconduct of a police officer.
Lewis' remarks sent Shickshinny Forward members into a tailspin, and on Dec. 6, there was talk of a mass resignation because they heard that some in the council audience didn't know if he was speaking on behalf of Shickshinny Forward, a nonpolitical volunteer organization that crafted and is executing a long-term recovery and revitalization plan for the borough.
Sara Grier, the group's external relations coordinator, told The Times Leader on Dec. 7 that the group held an emergency meeting the night before, and there was no mass resignation after Lewis explained that he made it clear he was speaking to council on his own behalf.
However, when Moore read Grier's statement in the newspaper, she called to dispute it.
Moore said Lewis made no statement that he was no longer speaking on behalf of Shickshinny Forward when he berated her and made other accusations.
Morris agreed. It was one continuous conversation. He gave out the plaques, everybody stood and applauded, there was a pause and then he said, ‘You know, I've been a citizen of this borough 11 years' and began berating the mayor, Morris said.
However, Council President Rosalie Whitebread and Councilman Barry Noss disagree.
After he got done (with the plaque presentation), he said, ‘Now, on to my other business.' He did not include it with his presentation, Whitebread said last week.
Noss said Lewis stated he was not representing Shickshinny Forward, I'm representing myself as a Shickshinny resident.
A Times Leader correspondent at the meeting recalled Lewis making no such statement.
The meeting was not recorded.
Lewis could not be reached for comment. A phone listing for him was disconnected.
Grier agreed to try contacting Lewis for a reporter. She later said he replied by email that he did not wish to speak with the media. She also said that Lewis resigned at the emergency meeting but that the group has not yet officially accepted the resignation.
Shickshinny Forward meets next on Jan. 7 at the Shickshinny Fire Co. For more information, visit www.shickshinnyforward.com.