GET YOUR HOUSE IN ORDER: Are public officials above the standards set for the rest of us?
by Editorial Board
Robinson’s monthly meeting in February unearthed another case of a public official falling short of standards upheld for other residents.
In this case, commissioners acknowledged a deteriorated building owned by Tax Collector Michael Pendel on McCormick Road has reached a state of disrepair that would qualify it as a public nuisance under the township’s building codes. The two-story house appears to have been neglected for decades, but, faced with the public remarks of a persistent resident, township officials have now been forced to address the situation.
Owning dilapidated property is a minor offense that anyone could easily find themself in and for which Pendel should be given time to put right. The issue is that goodwill of this kind isn’t usually extended to those without township connections. Sometimes it even appears vindictive.
For example, in 2018, Robinson’s code enforcement officer cited a business owner who was resisting plans put forward by a developer serving on a township commission. He was given 48 hours to comply, and – failing to – was issued a criminal citation and a $500 fine. A Commonwealth judge ultimately found the filing deficient on multiple points and overturned the case – but the example demonstrates how your allegiance to the township may affect your quality of life as a resident.
Robinson is not alone in this. When, during a public meeting last summer, a concerned resident addressed Stowe’s board of commissioners seeking resolution to an unsettling incident he’d witnessed, President Robin Parrilla rudely dismissed him as a troublemaker.
Shortly after, it was revealed Parrilla owes more than $30,000 in combined taxes to the township and school district. Despite this, and much public outcry, he was recently reappointed leader by his peers.
Taxes are also an issue for leaders in other municipalities. While McKees Rocks recently concluded a bitter brawl with the owners of the Roxian Theatre over disputed amusement tax payments, various members past and present have been sued by county, school and municipal agencies on an annual basis for failing to pay property taxes.
Meanwhile, the town’s former mayor, who regularly denounced all manner of crime during his public addresses, blocked access to the police blotters after one aired revealing an alleged crime by a councilmember.
Such examples abound, but the point has been made.
All of us find ourselves in difficult positions from time to time and all of us have made mistakes for which we regret. Knowing this, we should offer compassion and kindness whenever we watch a neighbor stumble. We should not, however, accept hypocrisy from those in positions of power.
When a leader stumbles, they have a responsibility to quickly put things right, or acknowledge it’s time to step back until they can.
When a resident stumbles, leaders have a responsibility to gently steer them back on track, mindful of the delicate balance between an individual’s needs and those of the entire community. Mindful, foremost, that they swore to serve all.
Too often, though, as recent events have shown, these principles play out in reverse.