HAZLETON — Caught in the middle of a budget dispute between the mayor and council, Steve Hahn was fired as acting interim city administrator on Monday for supposedly not showing enough support for the administration.
Hahn said Mayor Joe Yannuzzi called him into his office when he arrived for work Monday morning and was told that he was terminated.
“I’m really caught in the middle in this budget dispute between mayor and council,” Hahn said in a phone interview.
A council seated in December approved Yannuzzi’s original 2014 budget, but a council with newly elected members amended Yannuzzi’s budget in January, eliminating a 55-mill tax increase. Yannuzzi vetoed council’s budget, but council voted 3-1, with Jeff Cusat abstaining, to override the veto in February.
Yannuzzi contends that his original budget remains in effect because four of five votes are needed to override a veto, but Council President Jack Mundie said council advisor Charles DeCosmo found case law that said council could override the veto with just three votes, given Cusat’s abstention.
City solicitor Chris Slusser said Cusat had no reason to abstain and recommended council re-vote, but Mundie refused, and Cusat said his abstention would not change on a re-vote anyway.
Hahn on Monday said that as far as he knew, council overrode the veto.
“It’s not up to me to determine (which budget is in effect). Someone must show me legally. … I have not seen such documentation,” he said. “It was told to me that I was not supportive of certain administrative aspects.”
Mundie said a memo from the city clerk informing him that Hahn no longer worked for the city provided no reason. He said the news came as “a complete surprise,” but he suspected the budget dispute was the reason.
“He’s just caught in the middle,” Mundie said of Hahn. “I don’t know if he’s sure which budget is valid and I think he has concerns about which budget should be in force.”
Hahn said harassment charges filed against him by Sugarloaf Township police in February had nothing to do with his firing. Charges were filed after a township woman filed a complaint alleging Hahn continued to pursue a romantic relationship with her after she rebuffed his advances. Hahn has denied the allegations.
“I think (Hahn) did a good job as administrator and a good job putting a budget together and trying to get us all to come to a consensus. But it seems with the mayor, it’s his way or the highway, and it can’t be like that in government,” Mundie said.
Yannuzzi did not return a message left on his cell phone voice mail.