Bethlehem City Council overturned a previous decision and unanimously appointed Diana Morganelli to the city’s Parking Authority at a contentious meeting Wednesday following public criticism over their handling of the candidate.
Morganelli, the wife of District Attorney John Morganelli and political ally to Bethlehem Mayor Donchez who appointed her, was rejected by the council’s human resources committee by a 3-0 margin on April 22.
At Wednesday’s council meeting, board member Bryan Callahan expressed frustration over accusations of overreaching and power grabbing on the part of the council, which he claimed came directly from Mayor Donchez.
“You said to me that some people were seeing this as a power grab” he said. “That came out of your mouth to me personally.”
Callahan went on to defend the council’s ability to review and reject appointments made by the mayor, a right he said Donchez himself had previously exercised.
“One of our main jobs as council members…is to advise and consent,” he said. “It is part of our job, Mayor [Donchez]. It was part of your job when you sat on the other side of the table. You had that right. I think council’s right shouldn’t be questioned.”
Donchez fired back by saying that the quotes attributed to him were “totally inaccurate,” and that the council should instead be focusing on the city’s development.
“We can’t let partisan politics divide us,” said Donchez, alluding to ideological rifts between him and members of city council. “We all have to put the city first.”
The Mayor said he had made numerous attempts to reach out and bridge the gap between him and council.
He also took exception to the amount of time it took to process and respond to Morganelli’s application.
“You had her resume for five weeks,” he said disparagingly.
Council member Karen Dolan meanwhile took ownership for the delay, saying that the process took too long.
“I want to start by taking some blame for this,” she said. “We didn’t get started on this [appointment process] until very recently. Approving appointments is one of the most important jobs that council has, but in the past council didn’t vet appointments at all.”
Dolan claimed the creation of a human resources committee was an attempt to address that deficiency.
She, along with board members Cathy Reuscher and Adam Woldron, had cast the three votes against Morganelli’s application back in April.
City officials also took the opportunity to respond to allegations that Morganelli had been dismissed due to being a stay at home mother for many years prior to applying.
“We never felt any of the candidates had a gap due to parenting” said Dolan. “As someone who cares deeply about women advancing in the world, I just have to strongly defend the committee.”
Morganelli previously served on the Area Library Board for three years and worked as an auditor and analyst for Air Products before deciding to become a full-time stay at home mom.
Other members expressed optimism that the experience would provide for future growth.
“Luckily we had some time to reflect on it” said Adam Waldron. “Moving forward from this vote and from this committee approach we will do a better job.”
In reversing their decision, the board also expressed an outpouring of support for Morganelli.
“She has reached out to all of us to serve in any way,” said Chairman William Reynolds. “She's certainly fit.”