EXETER — Attorney Sam Falcone says it’s untrue that Exeter officials don’t know why he resigned as Zoning Hearing Board solicitor, and it has to do with a councilman’s living arrangements.
Councilman Larry Dellegrotto disputes that Falcone ever informed council of the reason he resigned, and he denies that his living arrangements create any problem.
Dellegrotto said at last week’s council meeting that a lawyer is not needed at zoning board hearings if a qualified consultant is present, and that a lawyer can be brought in when legal questions arise. A council majority voted to hire Butler Township attorney Donald Karpowich to advise on an as-needed basis.
Falcone had quit earlier this year. After the meeting, Dellegrotto told a reporter he didn’t know the reason behind Falcone’s departure.
But after Falcone read about Tuesday’s council meeting in The Times Leader, he said Dellegrotto knows full well why he resigned.
“I felt that the appointment of the alternate (member) to the Zoning Hearing Board who resides with Mr. Dellegrotto created an inherent conflict, because that person could have more influence over a council person than someone who did not” have those living arrangements, Falcone said.
Falcone said council had appointed Nancy Dolan, who resides with Dellegrotto, as an alternate zoning hearing board member and that at the first meeting she attended, Falcone cautioned her about asking questions of a zoning applicant that he deemed inappropriate.
“There are certain questions you can’t ask because you have to be fair and impartial to anyone who applies,” Falcone said.
For example, he said, “if a person applies to put an addition on their home, it doesn’t matter what their economic situation is or what their living arrangements are.”
Falcone said that after the zoning hearing, he was questioned by Dellegrotto, whom he said suggested that Falcone “didn’t treat a person the way (he) thought I should.”
“That was not proper protocol,” Falcone said. “If he had a problem with me, he should have brought it to council and there should have been an investigation.”
Falcone said he resigned because “I didn’t think I was going to be able to effectively do my job.”
Falcone said Dellegrotto’s statement to a reporter that Dellegrotto didn’t know why he quit suggests to the public “that I quit without giving a reason and left the residents of Exeter in a bad position.” Falcone said that was not the case and he would have preferred to continue in the position if the situation were different.
“But I cannot do my job under these circumstances,” he said.
After calling Falcone “an asset to the community” and saying he did a “good job” as solicitor, Dellegrotto insisted on Monday that Falcone “left of his own volition” and that he did not tell council the reason.
He also said any emails between him and Falcone “are personal emails,” and Falcone did not make him aware of the reason for his resignation by email.
As to the allegation of his living arrangements creating an inherent conflict, Dellegrotto said “that’s totally unfair.”
“You don’t use your council position to be a power player. Sam’s going down the wrong track. I would never do that. That may be the way he does business, but it’s not the way I do business,” Dellegrotto said.