Editor’s Note: In response to this letter, Lower Saucon Township Councilwoman Jennifer Zavacky provided a timeline of recent events which she said demonstrates that “it was Hellertown Borough that instructed Hellertown Area Library (HAL) to amend its by-laws, which is different from ‘being good stewards’ and/or not having a contract with Lower Saucon Township (LST).” In an email to Saucon Source publisher Josh Popichak Tuesday, Zavacky noted that “HAL actually had LST appointed residents active and voting on its board up through Feb. 6.” She further stated that “while LST and HAL are in discussions on how to move forward and HAL still requesting six figures of investment into the library with an agreement, it causes concerns on how to move the situation forward when HAL signed a contract with (Hellertown Borough) which removed the opportunity for LST to play an active role on its board into the future,” adding that, “this could be somewhat analogous (to) taxation without representation.” Her timeline of events follows the letter below. Saucon Source has requested a copy of the amended HAL bylaws from the library board of trustees.
Lower Saucon Township councilwoman Jennifer Zavacky was quoted by the Morning Call in a recent article about the Hellertown Area Library with a new set of excuses as to why she and council members Jason Banonis, Tom Carocci and Sandra Yerger have not voted for a new contract with the Hellertown Area Library.
Zavacky and three other members from Lower Saucon Township were removed from the HAL board during a special meeting Feb. 6; an action Zavacky told the newspaper was akin to being divorced by someone after entering marriage counseling with them.
The library bylaws under which the removals occurred are contingent upon there being active contracts with the municipalities it serves. Lower Saucon’s contract and extensions expired Jan. 31, 2022, and the term of the township’s appointments to the HAL board expired Dec. 31, 2021. As a result, there was no current appointment or voting member from Lower Saucon Township to reference in the HAL bylaws, and there won’t be until or unless a new contract is signed and new board appointments are made in 2022. The HAL board are simply being good stewards of the library by revising its bylaws to reflect the lack of a contract and appointees by Lower Saucon Township.
At the Lower Saucon Township reorganization meeting held on Jan. 3, 2022, Lower Saucon Township Council did not appoint any members to the HAL board. At minute 54:50 of the Jan. 3 meeting, council turned its discussion to appointment of township liaisons to various committees. During that discussion, council president Jason Banonis attempted to prevent including a liaison to the library in the annual appointments. See minute 55:55. Only at the urging of councilwoman Priscilla deLeon did they eventually appoint councilwoman Zavacky as council liaison to the HAL. At minute 66:40, the council turns to approval of appointments to various committees within the township. Of importance during this discussion is that at no time did council appoint any members to the HAL board for 2022. That meant there were no appointments to HAL and the HAL could not mention the same in their bylaws. The link to recorded township meetings can be found here.
If Zavacky had attended meetings in 2021, she would know that Lower Saucon Council has taken a critical stance on library appointees participating in HAL board meetings beyond their term. She wasn’t present at the April 7, 2021 meeting, when councilmen Banonis and Carocci first questioned the library board. Maybe she did know, and they all forgot about their concerns from nine months ago. Only she and the council majority can answer this question. The following is from the minutes for the April 7, 2021 meeting:
“Mr. Banonis said yes, his question to (township manager) Leslie (Huhn) was at any time from Dec. 31, 2020 until Feb. 23, 2021, did (former township councilwoman and HAL board liaison) Kristen (Stauffer) ever come to Leslie in going over what took place at library meetings, to say to her that the board decided that they were going to keep (township resident) Janie Hecker on as a board member regardless of it not having a vote by LST Council; and Leslie said she doesn’t remember having that conversation, is that right Leslie? Mrs. Huhn said correct. Mr. Banonis said thank you. Mrs. deLeon said she feels like we are in court here. Mr. Banonis said no, you’re not in court, he’s just trying to get to the bottom of why we are giving $100,000 to an organization that doesn’t follow basic parliamentary rules and runs afoul of the agreement that we have with them and just willy nilly starts appointing people or deciding to allow citizens to vote at their meeting. He can look at our list of attendees now and say why don’t you come and vote at the LST Council meeting. That doesn’t seem to be appropriate, and we’re the stewards of the taxpayer money.” See the April 7, 2021 meeting minutes, page 21, for further details.
Councilwoman Zavacky told the Morning Call she was “optimistic” about negotiations with the Hellertown Area Library board until she and the other township members were removed from it, which the article said was part of “an escalating dispute that threatens other community resources.”
It seems appropriate to me for the HAL board to amend its bylaws to conform with the current contract. I do not perceive the board’s action as an attempt to escalate tensions, but rather as an effort to keep the bylaws in conformity with Lower Saucon Township’s stated objection to appointees participating beyond their term, and without any contract formalizing Lower Saucon’s participation. If anyone is escalating tensions between the library and the township it is Lower Saucon Township Council, by failing to include library services as an agenda item for the Feb. 16, 2022 council meeting. If leaving our township library-less isn’t important enough for an agenda item, I don’t know what is.
I am in support of continuing taxpayer funding exclusively to HAL and am shocked at the conduct our council is taking to rip our community apart.
Lower Saucon Township
Note: The following timeline related to the adoption of updated Hellertown Area Library bylaws and removal of LST board members from the HAL board was provided by Lower Saucon Township Councilwoman Jennifer Zavacky in response to the above letter.
- 1/30/2022 – Special HAL Board meeting was held (I attended). LST residents are still on the HAL Board, actively collaborating and voting. I was actually sworn in as a HAL Board member on this date.
- 1/31/2022 – Special Hellertown Borough Council Meeting held to review and execute an agreement between HAL and HB, in which this agreement states in Section 5A: “The Library shall promptly after the Effective Date amend its By-Laws so that the Borough has the power to appoint a majority of the Library Board of Directors. The By-Laws shall also be promptly amended so that Lower Saucon Township does not have the power to appoint Library Board members. The Library shall promptly reorganize the Board so that the composition of the Board matches the composition of the Board as provided for in the amended By-Laws.”
- 2/4/2022 – HAL and LST meeting. We were still discussing the potential for an agreement or arrangement between the two parties.
- 2/6/2022 – HAL Special Board Meeting (I attended). (The board) met to amend its By-Laws per the new HB/HAL agreement and approved a revised a draft By-Laws agreement. The revisions were approved by a vote of 6-1 (I voted no). This vote ultimately removed the ability for LST to appoint members.
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Victoria Opthof-Cordaro is a former candidate for Lower Saucon Township Council. Council’s Wednesday, Feb. 16 meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. and will be held in-person at Lower Saucon Town Hall, 3700 Old Philadelphia Pike, Bethlehem, Pa. Saucon Shenanigans blogger Andrea Wittchen announced in her most recent blog post (“So Many Questions,” Feb. 9, 2022) that she plans to once again livestream the meeting online.