By Elizabeth Perry
Coraopolis residents spoke up during comments at the latest council meeting to defend Manager Ray McCutcheon.
Residents Christine Whyle and Dana LaRocco Niedergall spoke on McCutcheon’s behalf.
“Mr. Harris has accused this council-manager of unsubstantiated things,” Niedergall said at the Oct. 11 meeting.
Niedergall opened her remarks by mentioning she was the daughter of the late council member Dan LaRocca.
“After what is happening to my town, I know my father would want me to speak up,” Niedergall said.
Mike Harris, who is running for Ward 1 seat on the board, had accused McCutcheon in a public meeting Aug. 9 of unethical behavior in connection with the nomination of McCutcheon’s friend to fill an empty Ward 3 seat.
McCutcheon had approached the candidate and asked him to take the seat despite there being three individuals who applied for the volunteer position. Hand-picking a candidate was legal, according to Borough Solicitor Richard F. Start, but the lack of public debate had caused controversy.
McCutcheon responded to Harris’ public remarks and the Aug. 9 meeting ended with an argument between the two men. Harris had also criticized the manager on social media, something which McCutcheon mentioned during the public argument and something Niedergall revisited in her comments.
“The new people that are now running for council seem to want to tear this town down on social media,” Niedergall said.
She went on to praise McCutcheon for 10 years of low taxes and the many grants he’d been able to acquire from the state.
Niedergall said all the new candidates were being backed by a “local businessman” who owned Birch Holdings and whose sole goal was to fire McCutcheon.
Brian Diggins is the owner of Birch Holdings which purchased the former municipal building and owns half the buildings on Mill Street. A member of the CCDC Business & Economic Development Team, Diggins has been a vocal, influential critic of the current board’s policies and has indeed publicly supported several new candidates who are running in November.
“There is so much negativity and untruths out there about how we need a change in government in Coraopolis. My question is why when this council and the borough manager have worked together so well and accomplished so much,” Whyle said.
Whyle touted the $4 million in road repair, the new tot lot, replaced street lights and all the volunteer work the council members have done.
In her comments, Whyle also mentioned that McCutcheon received the Distinguished Service Award from the Pennsylvania State Association of Boroughs and commended the board for their hands-on work. She also singled out Council Member Ed Pitassi for praise in relation to his volunteer work with the Shade Tree Commission and maintaining Wildcat Trails.
Whyle urged people to go to the polls in November and “not vote for someone who makes promises and you don’t know who they are.”