Northampton Press

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Photos may lead to legal action

Thursday, November 13, 2014 by STACEY KOCH Special to The Press in Local News

Attorney asks for George's resignation

Bath Borough Council could face legal action.

At the Nov. 3 council meeting, Bath landlord Joe Tavianini and his attorney, John Molnar, presented their case to council for wrongful use of photos in support of enacting a rental property ordinance. The ordinance is currently being discussed and evaluated by council.

Both Tavianini and Molnar believe the ordinance is unneeded.

"Those photos … it's our understanding were a part of an investigative file for The Fox in regard to an enforcement action," Molnar said. "It's our understanding those photographs were used at a council meeting, we believe, in a misleading manner in order to try to support the possible enactment of a new ordinance."

At the October meeting, Councilwoman Jennifer George, while showing the photographs said, "These are some pictures I brought. It's exposed electrical wiring. This is someone's apartment … smoke detectors … mold. So, there are issues in the borough."

Molnar told council that The Fox was a hotel and did not have a connection as a tenant and landlord.

"The councilperson [George] who presented those photographs, we believe, was totally inappropriate in using those photographs in trying to promote an ordinance that is not needed in the borough and was really misleading," Molnar said.

Molnar asked for George's resignation.

"Our view is that the person who presented those photographs to council should resign from council, and we're here tonight to express our concerns because we believe that the matter could open up the borough to liability in using photographs like this which were part of an investigative file," Molnar said.

According to Molnar, the 2013 investigation with The Fox was resolved under current ordinances.

"I believe that the ordinance that The Fox was being investigated about was used and the matter was resolved," Molnar said. "We don't believe that it was appropriate to use those photographs in that those photographs were a part of an investigative file, which is not a public record and our view under the Open Records Act."

Borough Manager Tom Petrucci offered a different viewpoint on the matter. He said the photographs are "a public record" because the problems were resolved with the ordinance the borough has.

"That's the way our solicitor [Blake Marles] viewed it," he said.

With Marles not present at the time, many on council interrupted, saying it's best to wait until Marles is present to discuss the matter further.

Borough President Robert Fields asked Petrucci if there was anything for executive session to discuss.

"Well, we should probably talk about potential legal action," Petrucci responded.