CLARION - Clarion Borough Council voted Jan. 6 to settle a legal dispute with former Clarion Borough Police Chief Mark Hall regarding his pension.

Hall will receive the pension benefits he accrued while employed by the borough.

Hall's employment as borough secretary and treasurer was terminated in late 2016 and then-Clarion Borough Mayor "Dude" Walters suspended Hall as police chief a couple of weeks later.

Hall originally indicated he would appeal the dismissal but later opted not to appeal the action.

The actions came after it was allegedly discovered Hall made unauthorized payments of more than $20,000 to himself under the designation of vacation time.

In April of 2017, Clarion Borough Council accepted an $20,751 insurance settlement regarding borough funds allegedly misappropriated by Hall.

The decision to settle the dispute seems to boil down to it being cheaper than litigation.

Clarion Borough Legal Counsel John Marshall said there was a potential lawsuit from Hall to sue for his pension.

Marshall explained that pension amounts about $148 per month, which is cheaper than litigation.

"Council would like to put the matter behind them," Marshall said.

Clarion Borough Council President Carol Lapinto allowed questions from the audience and received an inquiry from Elisabeth Fulmer, a well-known face at council meetings.

Fulmer questioned why a person who has broken the law gets to receive a pension.

Marshall explained the law is murky on the subject of whether a person should be entitled to the benefits they've secured even if they've broken the law.

"It just made more sense to settle than pursue litigation," Marshall said.

Fulmer also questioned if restitution had been paid and Lapinto responded that the borough had an insurance policy which covered restitution.

All of council voted to settle with Hall, with one exception Benjamin Aaron voted against the action. He also voted against authorizing council members to sign an agreement fulfilling the terms of the settlement.

In February of 2017, two former Clarion Borough officials one a police officer and the other a councilman asked for a formal investigation into a salary dispute that led to the firing of Hall.

Former borough police officer and later a state attorney general investigator Kenneth Means and former councilman Rich Herman, who at one time served as council's public safety committee chair, made the request.

There was never any word from the attorney general's office as to if it did any investigation of the case.

In other business, Lapinto noted there is a vacancy on the Clarion Free Library Board of Trustees. The three-year position is open to any Clarion Borough resident.

If a resident is interested, they should contact Linda LaVan-Preston at the borough office.

Council also:

4Approved the proposal from S&T Bank for the 2020 Tax Anticipation Note in the amount of $300,000 at the rate of 1.74 percent.

4Permitted Todd Colosimo to draw down CDBG funding to reimburse the general fund in the amount of $2,363 which includes Colosimo's wages from July 28 through Dec. 28, 2019, in the amount of $1,840 and advertising fees in the amount of $523.

4Approved completing the CDBG modification/revision process for adding the FFY 2018 Main Street Activity to the FFY 2016 application and adding the FFY 2016 Community Park Recreation Improvements Activity to the FFY 2018 application.

4Approved the EADS Group, Inc. as the borough engineer with one question from Aaron who questioned if the borough had looked into any other possibilities. Borough officials had not and Aaron voted against the action.

4Approved the EADS Group, Inc. as the borough's CDBG program consulting engineer for years 2020-2022.

4Appointed Susquehanna Accounting Consulting as the borough's financial consultant for 2020 at a rate $190.

4Reminded council that Zelekofske Axelrod, LLC. Is to complete the 2019 audit for the price of $10,346.