By Chadwick Dolgos
Tensions ran high during the Stowe Township board of commissioners’ meetings this month after President Robin Parrilla indicated plans to remove commissioner Cheryl McDermott as chair of the Public Works committee and replace her with commissioner Dave Rugh.
After serving as chair of public works for more than nine years, McDermott said she received a call from Parrilla on June 6 informing her of his decision to remove her as chairwoman. No public action ratifying the changes has yet been taken.
Parrilla said his decision was neither personal nor political, but one that has been “creeping up” on the board due to actions McDermott has taken as chairwoman in the past. He declined to disclose details.
“There are a couple of things that popped up that have been brought to our attention, and that’s all I’m going to say,” he said.
McDermott believes Parrilla’s decision was political and stems back to a get-together prior to the primary election, where she was confronted about not liking Parrilla’s and Vice President of the board Darrel Chestnutt’s shared political page on Facebook.
“They said I was not supportive because I did not check ‘like’ on their Facebook political page,” McDermott said.
She also believes her show of support for unsuccessful write-in candidate Jeffrey Paul played a role in Parrilla’s decision. Paul announced a last-minute bid for one of two seats occupied by Parrilla and running mate Darell Chestnutt after speaking out at a public meeting in April over concerns the township was failing to deal with public safety issues posed by a local strip joint.
“If this was a vendetta, I wouldn’t be answering these questions,” said Parrilla. “This is happening because what she’s done cannot happen again.”
Upon hearing the news of her replacement, McDermott effectively resigned her roles on all committees during her conversation with Parrilla. Prior to her resignations, she also served on the Chartiers West Council of Governments and the Health/Sanitation/Stormwater committees.
“I said, that’s your call; if you want to be off all committees and you don’t want to do anything, so be it,” said Parrilla.
While no official action was taken regarding committee assignments during either of the board’s meetings this month, the contention between Parilla and McDermott disrupted the flow of events.
At the Monday, June 7 meeting, the commissioners immediately entered a half-hour-long executive session that McDermott chose not to attend.
“I felt that since I am not on any committees, why waste that time to be ignored or verbally abused?” McDermott said.
According to Rugh, committee assignments and McDermott's place in them were not discussed during the session.
McDermott packed up her materials and left before the meeting was adjourned, following a back-and-forth between her and Parrilla, but not before she asked Commissioner Kelly Cropper-Hall to read off the total amounts in each of the township’s financial accounts during the Finance and Pension committee report.
“Taxpayers have a right to know that information,” McDermott said. “It should be part of her report every other month.”
While McDermott has removed herself from all committees, she will not be resigning her position on the board.
“I want to work for the people that voted me on,” McDermott said. “I’m here to make this town better, make good people come, and make good people stay.”
As for the Public Works committee, Rugh does not currently plan on making any changes because he believes that he and McDermott set everything into place when he was co-chair.
“Nothing’s going to change,” Rugh said. “If [McDermott] needs something done, I’m gonna call Dan [Burkhart, director of public works] and ask him to get it done.”