Parkland Press

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Residents ask for Utsch

Sunday, December 29, 2019 by SUSAN RUMBLE Special to The Press in Local News

In their first encounter since the contentious Nov. 20, 2019, meeting, South Whitehall residents and commissioners came together Dec. 4, 2019, to express their thoughts on the appointment of Joe Setton to fill the unexpired term of Commissioner Mark Pinsley.

Board President Christina “Tori” Morgan commented before public comments.

“We can’t have another meeting like the last one,” Morgan said. “Our vote was transparent and in full compliance with the laws.”

Residents, however, had a different approach to the matter.

Dave Burke noted commissioner candidate Tom Utsch received 114 more votes than Setton in the November 2019 General Election.

“The people of South Whitehall voted overwhelmingly for three candidates for the board of commissioners who ran on a platform of smart, responsible growth for the township,” said Burke, referring to the successes of Diane Kelly, Matt Mobilio and Michael Wolk.

He noted only two weeks later, commissioners appointed Setton who not only finished below Utsch but who is a real estate agent who allegedly supports large developments such as Ridge Farm.

Burke noted Utsch advocates moderate growth.

Resident John Chaya reminded commissioners to listen to the voice of the people.

He noted residents have been attending Ridge Farm meetings regularly and expressing their concerns on the impact of such a large development.

Concerned residents were standing for more than two hours in the side aisles and rear of the public meeting room, waiting for the lengthy agenda to be completed before public comments could begin.

“Given the turnout tonight and the outcry of the voice of the people against the process you implemented on Nov. 20, 2019, and the decision you made, will you now rescind the vote taken to appoint Mr. Setton and follow the voice of the people who voted for Mr. Utsch?” Chaya asked.

Board members Glenn Bock, David Bond, Matt Mulqueen and Morgan responded in the negative.

Resident Sam Socco stepped forward and asked whether the appointment of Setton is “set in stone.”

“That’s correct,” replied township Solicitor Joe Zator.

Resident Morris Halpin offered his thoughts on the issue.

“As a veteran, I fought for democracy,” Halpin said. “What you did and how you did it is not democracy.”

He noted the selection of Setton over Utsch disregarded the message of the voters.

“It’s your job to restore our faith in South Whitehall’s government and do the right things,” Halpin said. “Otherwise you undermine the sacrifices made by service members who put their lives on the line to uphold our freedoms and institutions.”