Court order postpones McKeesport council meetings until public access provided

MCKEESPORT, Pa. — A video shows residents and members of Take Action Mon Valley showing up to the McKeesport Municipal Building for a council meeting in January, only to be denied access. In a letter taped to the door, residents were told 2021 council meetings are closed to the public until further notice due to COVID-19.

“The public has to be able to see the meetings and participate by giving comment and have dialogue with election officials,” said Fawn Walker, CEO of Take Action Mon Valley.

The ACLU and the group have filed a lawsuit against the council. A meeting scheduled for Wednesday was postponed due to a court order. Council members have to come up with a plan of how they can provide public access to the meetings.

“The allegation of something was done maliciously or anything else. It’s quite just the opposite. We are one of the few municipalities that literally held open public meetings for all of 2020 because of transparency,” said Mayor Michael Cherepko.

Take Action Mon Valley and some people living in McKeesport told Channel 11 they went to the meeting to voice their concerns about how police handled the search for a man wanted for shooting a police officer in December, claiming there was “over policing.”

“There’s illegal search and seizures going on, just a lot of police misconduct,” Walker claimed.

“Let me be very clear: we have not gotten one complaint from anybody,” Cherepko said.

He told Channel 11 there are plans in the works to ensure residents can hear future meetings and call in to make public comments. Cherepko said virtual meetings are not an option right now because there are not enough resources to improve their internet connection.