Scranton Man Alleges School Board Appointment Violated Law
Scranton school directors violated the state’s open meetings law when they appointed a new member without the opportunity for public comment, a city man alleges in a complaint filed in the Lackawanna County Court of Common Pleas. Joseph Pilchesky seeks to remove Gopal Patel from the board, after directors appointed the Subway restaurant and convenience store owner to the vacant seat last month. At the end of a long meeting, with few audience members left, directors voted 5-3 to appoint Patel without the position being advertised or put on the agenda. Pennsylvania’s Sunshine Act requires a board to allow for public comment before a vote, which directors did not do. Solicitor John Audi said the board did not violate the Sunshine Act because the auditorium at South Scranton Intermediate School was nearly empty. Board President Barbara Dixon brought up the appointment under new business, after most of the public had left the meeting. Besides a reporter from The Times-Tribune, Audi said the only other person he saw was Rosemary Boland, president of the Scranton Federation of Teachers. A few district administrators and another teacher were also present. Audi said if he thought members of the public were present, he would have instructed the board to open the meeting up for public comment before the vote. Dixon said the board majority believes it did not violate the act. Minority members, who spoke out against the way the majority handled the appointment, considered pursuing their own Sunshine Act complaint in court but did not want to burden taxpayers with legal fees, directors Tom Schuster and Mark McAndrew said. “I’m glad (Pilchesky) is stepping forward,” McAndrew said. “I wish more people would step up.” Pilchesky, well known for filing multiple lawsuits that challenge actions of Lackawanna County officials, was sentenced this week to two years of probation and ordered to pay $1,000 in restitution for practicing law without a license. In 2013, he accepted money from three people to assist them in civil cases.