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Sewer plant worker on leave in MCMA probe



LARRY DEKLINSKI/STAFF PHOTO Shown is the Mount Carmel Borough sewer plant in Mount Carmel Township. An employee of the plant has reportedly been placed on a 30-day unpaid leave after ethical concerns were raised about his actions.

LARRY DEKLINSKI/STAFF PHOTO Shown is the Mount Carmel Borough sewer plant in Mount Carmel Township. An employee of the plant has reportedly been placed on a 30-day unpaid leave after ethical concerns were raised about his actions.

MOUNT CARMEL — A Mount Carmel Borough sewer plant employee has reportedly been placed on a 30-day unpaid leave after ethical concerns were raised about his actions.

Robert Shirmer, borough council president and Mount Carmel Municipal Authority (MCMA) chairman, declined to confirm if Victor “Vic” Kornaski had been placed on the leave but did say multiple times during the MCMA meeting Wednesday that the sewer plant only had two operators working — Robert Shirmer III and Tom Gallagher.

Kornaski was in attendance at a joint executive session held Monday by MCMA and borough council. The borough employs the workers at the sewer plant, which is overseen by MCMA.

The issue with Kornaski appeared to arise out of a cancelled contract with Conyngham Township. MCMA receives sewage from Conyngham Township, which does not operate its own sewer plant. Until July 1, MCMA had a contract to service Conyngham Township’s pumps.

A letter sent to MCMA from Conynghan Township dated July 28 does not give a reason for the cancellation. 

Conyngham Township then hired Smith Service and Maintenance, of 401 Kingsley Ave., Danville, to service its pumps at a monthly cost increase of $50 and more than double the hourly rate for call-outs.

The original proposal for the service, signed by Jason Smith, was dated Oct. 26, 2016.

Smith Service and Maintenance could not be found listed in the state registry of businesses, but a business with the same address, V&J Environmental, was listed as co-owned by Jason Smith and Kornaski. The registration for V&J Environmental was filed Oct. 25, 2016 — one day before the proposal.

Though Shirmer would not comment on Kornaski’s employment at the MCMA meeting, he did direct borough Manager Sam Schiccatano to take over all purchases for the sewer plant. He indicated he did not agree with some recent purchases made by employees at the sewer plant.

Reached Friday, Shirmer denied finding Kornaski’s purchases suspicious and said fellow Councilmember and MCMA member Bob Barrett was keeping an inventory of items at the plant.

Barrett said Friday the physical inventory is ongoing and is designed to match up items found at the plant with a list of purchases made by sewer workers. He confirmed the inventory is tied to an investigation into Kornaski, and said questionable purchases, including a $1,200 laptop, were recently made by sewer workers.

When asked if what the borough’s actions suggest is that Kornaski may have been making purchases using borough money for equipment that was then used by V&J Environmental for the contracted work with Conyngam Township, Barrett responded, “Very possibly.”

Messages left Friday for Smith and Kornaski were not returned.

No charges have been filed against Kornaski or Smith. Barrett said if a criminal investigation is conducted an agency from outside the borough will be used to avoid a conflict of interest.

Barrett said he intends to be thorough with the investigation because he is not a board member who lets crime go unpunished.

“Bob Barrett never even took a hat off somebody, or an ink pen,” he said. “I’ll be damned if I’m going to get sucked into something that makes me look bad, that I overlooked something.”

In addition to formally naming Schiccatano plant manager, MCMA also directed Township Engineer John Bucanelli to periodically stop in at the plant and review its operations. 

Shirmer said three men from Conyngham Township came to MCMA’s October meeting and asked the board to resume servicing the pumps when a new administration takes office in January.