Lehigh Valley

Bethlehem City Council reflects on meeting, adds council member

BETHLEHEM, Pa. - If Bethlehem City Council wanted to turn the page on last meeting's airing of dirty political laundry, Councilman Bryan Callahan did not.

Callahan hit the rewind button, first figuratively and later literally, on the combustible Aug. 20 meeting Tuesday night. Callahan had accused colleagues J. William Reynolds and Paige Van Wirt of pulling the plug on Carol Ritter's zoning hearing board candidacy based on "back channels," during the August meeting.

"It was political revenge," Callahan said Tuesday night. "… I stand by it."

Unlike his Aug. 20 tirade, Callahan was more congenial and succinct in addressing colleagues Tuesday night.

"I promise to be much quicker than I was last week," he said.

But that didn't make it a love fest, as Callahan displayed a stand-your-ground stance. He replayed tape of the meeting two weeks ago to support his stance that Reynolds had actually started the personal attacks.

Specifically, Callahan said for the first 24 minutes of his comments at the Aug. 20 meeting he did not comment on Reynolds personally. Only when Reynolds opted to lecture Callahan on what he insinuated was his bullying tactics did Callahan decide to go after Reynolds rhetorically.

Callahan played more audio from the meeting to further his argument.

Moving to Van Wirt, he played audio where she asserted to solicitor John Spirk that Callahan had violated Robert's Rules of Order – the guidelines of conduct for some governmental entities.

Callahan asked Spirk whether or not, under Robert's Rules, one council member was allowed to directly question another council member as it was his understanding that "modifications are permitted." Spirk offered a legal answer which eventually confirmed the answer was "yes."

"We have all broken the rules," Callahan said. "… I felt like I was being called out."

The councilman added that "I want to abide by the rules," but that if he was expected to do it, then it should go for all.

In response, President Adam Waldron asked Callahan a question.

"Do you feel you were treated unfairly?"

“No,” Callahan responded.

Waldron then got involved, saying that some people thought he had "a light gavel" and should have policed the conversation more strictly. However, he added his disposition was to allow "conversations" that were "open and fair."  Waldon then went on the verbal offensive against Callahan, saying he received comments that last meeting's discussions were "cringe-worthy." This statement was at odds with Callahan's earlier statements that he had received comments that the "debate and open discussion" was appreciated.

In official business Tuesday night, Grace Crampsie Smith was officially sworn in as the newest member of the legislative body by Judge Stephen Baratta.

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