Bethlehem City Council dumped its long-time solicitor Tuesday night.
By a 6-1 vote, council terminated Atty. Christopher Spadoni as solicitor and replaced him with Atty. John "Jack" Spirk, who until recently was the city solicitor in Bethlehem.
Spadoni was conspicuously absent at the meeting, although his name plate still was in front of his usual seat on the dais. Spirk was at the meeting, but did not address council.
Only council member Eric Evans voted to retain -- and passionately spoke on behalf of -- Spadoni, who served as council's solicitor since 1998.
Evans questioned how council's three newest members could have positions about the City Council solicitor when two of them, Bryan Callahan and Adam Waldron, were just sworn in last month and the third, Cathy Reuscher, was just appointed to council this month.
"It just seems a little absurd," said Evans. "It doesn't seem to make a lot of sense."
Evans said those three council members have no more than one month's experience on council -- and with Spadoni. "I find it hard to believe they can make a judgment that he needs to be replaced."
Evans said City Council is inexperienced. "We have a member with just a week or two of experience and a couple with just three weeks' experience. It's really difficult for them to come in and make a decision to replace someone who's been here since 1998 -- delivering opinions and helping as a parliamentarian, among other things."
Council president J. William Reynolds said several members of council had requested "a conversation" about the City Council solicitor.
"You want to surround yourself with people you feel comfortable with," said Reynolds. He said Spadoni served Bethlehem well for 17 years "but City Council is moving forward.
"It's not necessarily that there was something wrong with the representation we had; it's just that people would like to go in a different direction."
Council member Karen Dolan made the motion to terminate the services of Spadoni and immediately appoint Spirk as the new solicitor. Her motion was seconded by Waldron.
Dolan said that, during her eight years on council, Spadoni gave the council president an excessive level of access and influence "instead of serving all members of council as a solicitor should do."
Evans, the previous council president, said any elevated level of communication with Spadoni was based on his phone calls to the council solicitor. He maintained Spadoni was accessible to all council members, even on days when he was in court.
"He's been responsive, he's been thorough, he's been clear. I have full confidence in his ability and his commitment to this council.
"It's a mistake to remove the experience he has, the sense of history he has, the precedents he has set and the perspective he has."
Dolan initially said she preferred not to go into details about why she made the motion to replace Spadoni with Spirk.
"I really like Chris Spadoni, genuinely," she said. "You don't hear the word 'love' very often around here, but I love him as a person."
But she said council has the legal right to name its own solicitor.
She also said no current council members were serving when Spadoni was hired for the job.
"Mr. Spadoni had a great run as City Council solicitor," said Dolan. "He gave his all to this council."
She said if a majority of council members believe they can get a better legal adviser - "someone who would serve us better, we have a responsibility to bring that person in. We have to do the best thing for this council."
Praise for Spirk
Evans acknowledged that Spirk is excellent, adding: "I have all the respect in the world for Mr. Spirk."
Dolan said she's known Spirk for 10 years. "Jack is a brilliant lawyer and he is highly respected. He has decades of experience with Pennsylvania law, working with top attorneys in his field, including District Attorney John Morganelli and City Solicitor Bill Leeson.