Kutztown, ex-mayor still in records battle

By Mary E. Young
Reading Eagle

A seven-year battle between Kutztown and one of its residents over public financial records won't be resolved any time soon.

In the latest round, Gennaro A. Marino, a former mayor, contends that the borough has not provided profit and loss statements he requested for television cable and Internet access services the municipality provides to residents and some customers in Maxatawny Township.

Those services are part of Hometown Utilicom, which also provides electric and telephone services to residents.

The borough insists it has provided the records to Marino.

He is appealing to the state Office of Open Records a decision in which Berks County President Judge Jeffrey L. Schmehl ruled Marino had received all but one of the documents he requested.

The borough has since provided that document: a list of all customers in the borough and the township.

During a recent hearing before Schmehl, Kutztown Solicitor Keith Mooney said the borough provided Marino an audit showing expenses exceeded revenue in 2009, for a loss of $260,421.

"Kutztown keeps its accounting the way they're required to do per government accounting standards," Mooney said. "He's looking for things that don't exist."

The state Right-to-Know Law requires the borough to provide existing records, not create new records to satisfy a resident's request, he said.

But Marino said he believes the borough lost $1 million on telecommunications services.

"They're taking $600,000 from the borough in the way of rentals, scams and shams," he alleged. "They're falsifying the budget. They're corrupt."

Schmehl told Marino that he could not order the borough to do its accounting the way Marino would like.

"You're asking good questions," Schmehl told Marino. "I respect you for that. They're answering your questions. You don't like the answers."

Schmehl told Marino that he should take the issue to borough council if he thinks Kutztown should not be in the telecommunications business.

"Get a majority of council to sell the utility," Schmehl said. "It's a political issue, not a legal issue."

In his appeal to the state Office of Open Records, Marino stated that residents are being deprived of the ability to see what elected officials are doing with borough revenue.

When told that Marino was appealing to the state, Mooney again said the borough has given Marino all the documents that exist.

"I don't know what else he's looking for," Mooney said. "I guess we'll have to continue to deal with it."