CORAOPOLIS, Pa. — As the solicitor for Coraopolis and other towns for decades, Richard Start said this isn’t the first time he’s had to handle disciplinary action for an elected official. This time, it was in regard to Mayor Michael Dixon.
“I’ve been in the same position where I sat with a public official and I explained that to the mayor, and we offered those public officials the opportunity to resign, and they took it,” Start said.
Dixon did not take the solicitor’s offer to resign. So, the council publicly censured him at its meeting Wednesday night.
The censure stems from statements Dixon allegedly made about the employment of Borough Manager Ray McCutcheon twice.
Start said the first comments were made at a party in December, the second came in February at a local Masonic temple.
“At the Masonic temple, he said he has four candidates running for office,” Start said. ‘”McCutcheon will be gone when I get my four in.’ And that is a problem.”
McCutcheon has been the borough manager in Coraopolis for more than a decade, and the council submitted his name for a distinguished service award from the Pennsylvania State Association of Boroughs this year for the work he’s done in the borough.
Start said the censure is a way to distance the borough from those comments from Dixon, since the members don’t agree.
“It’s more than that,” Start said. “It’s distancing my borough and its general funds from a lawsuit that can be filed against the borough if that happens.”
The problem Start said is clear in Dixon’s statement on his Facebook page.
He posted it on Thursday morning, the day after he was censured.
“Note that the mayor has no legislative vote or any special executive power, except in times where there is a tie with Council, and therefore the mayor has absolutely no authority to unilaterally make decisions over the business dealings, and/or employment status of any employees of the borough in which they serve,” Dixon wrote.
The council has eight members.
“That tells me he’s thinking, ‘I’ll get a tiebreaker,’” Start said. “That’s just...that’s politics. This isn’t me playing politics.”
In his Facebook statement, Dixon added, “As per Pennsylvania law, a censure does not restrict me from speaking or continuing all of my duties as the elected Mayor of this borough. It is nothing more than a political gesture from Council expressing their displeasure with me.”
With the timing of the censure so close to the election, Start said it may seem suspect. But, he said it had to be done once the council got a letter from McCutcheon’s attorney.
“I feel a lot more comfortable for my borough, its citizens, and the general fund,” Start said.
Channel 11′s Andrew Havranek emailed McCutcheon for a statement Saturday evening but did not hear back.
Havranek did speak with Mayor Dixon on the phone. He declined to go on camera and said he had no further comment, but said he “just wants to make Coraopolis a better place to live for its residents.”
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