Lebanon City Council quickly polished off a short agenda at Monday’s monthly meeting, but concerns voiced by residents over new streetlights and the recent hiring of a facilities security manager stretched the proceedings to nearly an hour.

Lebanon Mayor Sherry Capello told the city council that the Pennsylvania Auditor General had completed a three-year audit of the city’s volunteer firefighter relief association, a nonprofit group that provides financial support to the city’s nine volunteer fire companies and encourages participation in volunteer firefighting. The city acts as a conduit, passing state funds to the association.

The only problem found by the auditors was a $581 shortfall in a loan repayment by a fire company. The amount, plus $29 interest, was promptly repaid.

Director of administration and assistant to the mayor Melissa Quinones reported that the city had reached labor contracts with the city’s police union and with the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, which represents non-uniformed workers. An agreement with the union representing paid firefighters has not been reached and will go to arbitration.

Quinones also reported that demolition of the swimming pool at Coleman Park is complete, that the city’s safety manual has been updated, and that public works department has openings for a maintenance worker and a zoning officer/permit processor.

Capello reported that with the fiscal year 42% complete, city revenue was at 61.5% of budget projections, and expenses at 30.7%.

That concluded the official agenda.

When the floor was opened to public comment, Weidman Street resident Jerry Kalinoski complained about excessive brightness and glare coming from newly installed LED streetlights. After a lengthy discussion between the mayor, council members, and residents, Capello said the city will seek a meeting with Met-Ed to see if the problem can be addressed through lower wattage bulbs, warmer light color, or shades.

Canal Street resident and former council member Pat Royer questioned the hiring of Capello’s son, James, as facilities security manager at City Hall, and asked about rumors that his salary was higher than the $57,000 the city will be paying starting police officers.

Royer said that hiring the mayor’s son gives the appearance of nepotism.

After Monday’s meeting, LebTown asked Mayor Capello for comment on the hiring of her son. In an email, Capello said that James Capello’s annual salary is $57,000. The mayor included a copy of the city’s lease with Harrisburg Area Community College, the city’s tenant at City Hall, which confirms that the college will pay 40% of that amount.

Responding to Royer’s suggestion that her son’s hiring was nepotism, Capello said, “To be clear, I was not involved in the hiring for this position, and the hire was not the result of nepotism.”

Capello said her son was already a city employee before transferring to his current position. When he was first hired, “[i]t was made clear during the hiring process that any and all employment decisions with respect to James were within the exclusive purview of his immediate supervisors, [former] Public Works Director Gordon Kirkessner and the current Public Works Director Robin Getz, as well as, Debra Gates, [former] Director of Administration/Deputy Mayor and the current Director/Deputy Mayor, Melissa Quinones. This same principle continues with respect to his current position.”

Mayor Capello’s full response can be read here.

Next City Council Meetings

City Council’s next pre-council planning meeting will be on Thursday, July 21, at 4:45 p.m. The next regular monthly council meeting will be on Monday, July 25, at 6:30 p.m.

Both meetings are open to the public and will be held in City Hall, 735 Cumberland St. in downtown Lebanon.

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Chris Coyle writes primarily on government, the courts, and business. He retired as an attorney at the end of 2018, after concentrating for nearly four decades on civil and criminal litigation and trials. A career highlight was successfully defending a retired Pennsylvania state trooper who was accused,...