Motion Fails, 5-2, to Terminate Mack
CLEARFIELD – A motion to immediately terminate Code Enforcement Officer Larry Mack, who has failed to obtain his Building Code Official certification, was shot down, 5-2, by Clearfield Borough Council at Thursday night’s special meeting. Mack left the meeting room following council’s vote.
Council members Wade Cowder, Brian Lytle, Richard Stewart Jr., David Gallaher and James Kling opposed terminating Mack. Council members Tim Winters and Patricia Kavelak, who also moved and seconded the motion, voted in favor. Councilman Fred Wisor was absent from the meeting.
Prior to council’s voting, Winters said they had moved to reaffirm Mack’s hiring at its Aug. 16 meeting. He said council’s reaffirmation was based upon the premise that it wasn’t aware of the specific certifications stipulated in Mack’s hiring. Since then he said council has determined what certification Mack was to acquire for the job.
When asked by Winters, Mack confirmed that he neither possessed the BCO certification, nor any other certification. Winters said the vote to reaffirm didn’t change the parameters of the job’s original advertisement and Mack’s eventual hiring.
“Since the original ad for the position has been produced, there isn’t any question as to the requirements of the position. This is clear and beyond dispute,” said Winters.
He said for three-and-a-half years, Mack has been compensated based on the BCO certification that he doesn’t have. He said it’s placed an “undue and fraudulent burden” on their taxpayers. Winters displayed an enlargement of the original job advertisement on an easel next to the press table.
Gallaher said the previous motion wasn’t meant to change the parameters of but merely to reaffirm Mack’s hiring. He said the last council included stipulations so far as acquiring certification. Winters said those were never addressed by the current council, which included its own stipulations.
Solicitor F. Cortez “Chip” Bell III said in reaffirming Mack’s hiring, council adopted the original motion as it was with whatever conditions attached to it and voted on it again. He said it came with the condition that Mack acquires certification in International Property Maintenance Code within one year and such others that were desired.
Winters said according to the original motion, Mack’s hiring included the completion of a six-month probationary period and acquisition of the necessary certification, which had caused speculation as to what certification. However, he said he’s since produced documentation to clarify what was probably known.
“This currently stands and we’ve added further certification to it,” said Winters. “Based on fact, Mack has never obtained his certification, as was required in his initial hiring and has not since. He has not fulfilled the obligations of his initial hiring over a period of three-and-a-half years.”
After Winters’ motion and Kavelak’s second, Gallaher sought to know a specific deadline for which Mack was supposed to obtain his BCO certification. Winters said that the Uniform Construction Code specified the date April 9, 2009; he said the job advertisement also gave the deadline.
Lytle said last month when council voted to reaffirm Mack’s hiring, its circumstances were vague regarding the certification. Winters said that was indeed the case because they weren’t aware the job advertisement existed.
Lytle suggested that perhaps the borough wanted a BCO and what if it didn’t receive one applicant with one. Winters said that wasn’t the case, however. Lytle then posed, “let’s just say we hired the best candidate for the position.” He said maybe someone had a BCO, but Mack might have been the best-qualified at the time.
“For the purposes of conversation, that’s fine. But for the purposes of law, that’s not,” said Winters. “. . . We’ve addressed the matter about the certification. It was plainly known and advertised.”
Kavelak asked Lytle if, as a teacher, he’s required to have a certificate to which he said yes. She asked what happens when someone loses their teaching certificate to which he said you’re no longer certified to teach.
“Legally, could you walk into the Clearfield Area School District and garner a paycheck without a certificate? You have the knowledge, but you don’t have the credentials,” she said. “I can’t go practice law on someone else’s license. Requirements are requirements. They are clearly stated and we can nit-pick around all we want, but facts are facts. You can’t change them.
“This is what’s required. It’s not something that I’ve dreamt up, because it’s not that hard to stand up and say there’s been a mistake for three years. You’re required to have a certification, and if you don’t obtain it, you don’t have a job.”
Kavelak then asked Stewart about becoming a referee to which he agreed he had to gain certification. He said if he lost that certification, he wouldn’t be officiating any longer.
“Here’s my problem with this. They have an ad in the paper that says they must have a BCO certification. We have our BCO certification with the Middle Department,” Stewart said.
“So just because it says that’s what they’re looking for, that’s what they must have, does that make it the gospel at the meeting when you hire. What is he allowed to do? Is he holding a position that he’s allowed to have?”
Stewart said if Mack is legally permitted to be in his current position and to carry out its duties, he didn’t understand why there was a problem. He said he wasn’t going to fire Mack because of requirements made by a job advertisement but not clearly stated in the council’s minutes from three years ago.
Winters said if the BCO certification hadn’t been included in the job advertisement, the borough likely would have had far more applicants. He said if the council wanted to change the rules, they had to change the position.
At that point, Mack interrupted and asked if he needed a BCO to enforce borough codes and zoning ordinances and International Property Maintenance Code to which Winters said he did not but he needed one to maintain his job. Winters asked Mack if those duties warranted his salary.
Winter said likely candidates chose not to apply because they didn’t have their BCO. He said the borough either has rules, or it does not.
When asked by Kavelak, Mack said he’d taken the BCO certification test four times and hadn’t passed it. She asked why he bothered so many times if it wasn’t required. Mack said he wanted the certification and to help the borough. He said he hadn’t attempted to acquire any others.
“I think it’s pretty clear by the fact that you attempted to take this test four times and haven’t passed it yet, that it was a requirement. We can sit here and play stupid, but it’s pretty apparent,” said Kavelak.
“If you rob a bank, you’re not going to admit it until the cards are stacked against you and money is falling out of your pockets. Then, you’re pretty much going to admit it. These are facts; you can do with it what you want.”
Borough Operations Manager Leslie Stott said Mack isn’t required by borough regulations to hold a BCO certification. She said even if Mack obtained his BCO certification, the Middle Department would still perform plan reviews and inspections.
Gallaher said he and Winters previously discussed Mack and his code enforcement position. Winters confirmed the discussion occurred.
“Now, not a damn one of us walks on water around here. So whatever this council did three years ago, there is only one person who was around here three years ago. We’re all new,” said Gallaher.
“Are we trying to rectify some of the mistakes from three years ago? Yes, we are. That was a part of reaffirming his hiring. If Larry doesn’t get something in the next year, Larry is gone and someone else is going to be in. It’s plain and simple.”
Winters said Mack’s reaffirmation was voted on based upon misinformation. But he said since through homework, it’s right there in black and white. Gallaher told Winters he was on his side until Winters told him to re-evaluate his position on the council.
When asked by the press after the meeting, Winters said council has “taken a step in the right direction.” However, he believed Mack should have been terminated.