Lehigh Valley

Lawyer for Bangor councilwoman accused of sexual assault refutes allegations

Merlo's lawyer responds to allegations

BANGOR, Pa. - The attorney for Stephanie Merlo -- a Bangor councilwoman arrested this month for allegedly sexually assaulting a teenage girl -- says the accusations are not true.

Merlo, 29, is accused of having a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl she met while serving as a volunteer volleyball coach at Pius X High School in Roseto.

Merlo's attorney, Bill Watkins, denounced the allegations during an interview with 69 News this weekend.

"There is a signed statement from the alleged victim that the accusations are not correct and that the alleged criminal activity did not occur," Watkins said. "The alleged victim says the policeman did not understand her comments during the investigation."

On Dec. 19, Merlo was charged with institutional sexual assault and corruption of minors. Investigators said Merlo and the student had a sexual relationship from September to November. Police also said Merlo provided marijuana to the teenager.

According to Watkins, Merlo had no affiliation with the high school this school year.

Meanwhile, Bangor Councilman David Houser said he will call for Merlo's resignation as a councilwoman during the Jan 6 borough council reorganization meeting.

"As a councilperson, I feel it is in the best interest of the people of the borough that their representatives should be above reproach," Houser said.

Merlo was appointed in October to fill a vacant council seat. Her term expires Dec. 31, 2015, according to the Bangor municipal website.

It remains to be seen if she will step down if a majority of council members support Houser's request for Merlo to step down.

According to Houser, borough code only allows council to request a member step down. Houser said the code does not allow the council to remove a member.

Houser said Merlo was appointed in October, by a 3-2 vote, to fill a vacancy left by the resignation of Councilman Marino Severi. Houser says he believes three other candidates who applied were more qualified, including Bangor Fire Chief Robert Engle, Zoning Board member Jane Gorman and Civil Service Commission member Angel Carrero.

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