MOUNT CARMEL — A property manager who oversees 140 properties in the greater Shamokin area was held for court Wednesday on three felony wiretapping charges relating to Facebook live recordings of public officials following a June 14 city workshop meeting.
The charges filed by Northumberland County Detective Degg Stark allege Jesse A. Storm, 44, of 1047 W. Mulberry St., Coal Township, livestreamed a private discussion with Shamokin Mayor John Brown and Councilmen Charles Verano and Scott Roughton without their knowledge.
Magisterial District Judge William Cole ruled Northumberland County District Attorney Tony Matulewicz presented enough evidence to send the case to Northumberland County Court of Common Pleas.
Cole ordered Storm to appear for a status conference Nov. 5.
Stark, Brown, Verano and Roughton testified at the two-hour hearing.
The mayor and councilmen told the court that they were talking city business, but were unaware of the recordings and never granted permission to Storm to record their conversation.
Storm, who represented himself, claimed the mayor and councilmen were discussing public information with him and that the recording was a continuation of him videotaping the council meeting.
Storm said all three city officials discussed only city business and no personal conversations occurred.
Storm is free on $5,000 unsecured bail set by Magisterial District Judge John Gembic III at his Aug. 5 arraignment. Gembic recused himself from hearing Storm’s case, which was later assigned to Cole.
According to a criminal complaint, Roughton discovered the livestreamed video on July 7 and referred the matter on July 11 to Shamokin Police Chief Raymond Siko II. Siko then referred the case to the Northumberland County District Attorney’s Office.
Storm, who has maintained his innocence in the case, previously stated, “This should be an open and shut case. The First Amendment protects the right to gather information about what public officials do on public property, and specifically, a right to record matters of public interest.”
Storm said he believes the charges were filed as an act of retribution after he threatened to file a lawsuit against the city days before the investigation began.
MOUNT CARMEL — A Mount Carmel woman suffered an arm injury in a two-vehicle accident Thursday afternoon at the intersection of Vine and Fifth streets.
Mount Carmel police reported John Wilhelm, 37, of 216 S. Vine St., Mount Carmel, was driving a Dodge Ram pickup truck north on Vine Street at 4:30 p.m. when he failed to stop or yield at a stop sign. Police said Wilhelm’s truck struck the rear driver’s side of a Buick Encore driven west on Fifth Street by Andrea Barnes, of Mount Carmel.
Barnes suffered an arm injury and was treated at the scene by ambulance personnel from AREA Services. Wilhelm escaped injury.
Police said Wilhelm will be cited for driving under suspension and a stop sign violation.
Barnes’ sport utility vehicle was towed from the scene by B&B Service Center, of Mount Carmel.
Cpl. William Adamski and Patrolman Justin Stelma investigated the accident. Borough firefighters and fire police assisted at the scene.
MOUNT CARMEL — Borough Council and the Police Department will celebrate its new police station with an open house Thursday, Sept. 30.
A ribbon cutting at 30 W. Third St. will take place 2:30 p.m. with the open house to follow. People are invited to tour the recently renovated space until about 7:30 p.m.
Police Chief Chris Buhay has said that the 5,450-square-foot building is more spacious, efficient and conducive to being a police station than the old headquarters in the basement of the former Mount Carmel Elementary School at 137 W. Fourth St.
The new station contains a records room, two interview rooms, a patrol room, a locker room for officers, an evidence room, bathrooms for males and females, three holding cells, a bench and bathroom for prisoners, a chief’s office and an office for police supervisors.
Council agreed to purchase 30 W. Third St. in November for about $160,000 from Heit Holdings LLC. Heim Construction, of Orwigsburg, was the general contractor for the renovations at the new police department. The firm submitted to council a low bid of $176,892.
Borough Manager Ed Cuff said Thursday that with the installation of cell doors the station is now complete.
Councilman Robert Barrett complimented the work of Heim Construction, adding that he is glad to move the department out of the former school building.
As it stands, the borough has a month-to-month lease with the owner of the former school, which for years housed the police department and offices for borough, Lower Anthracite Transportation System and municipal authority. The borough pays $2,400 and the municipal authority $300 in rent each month.
That will change once primary work is finished at the new municipal building, located just two doors away from the station. The borough has already submitted a lease termination notice, but may pay rent in October to allow sufficient time for all offices to relocate to the new municipal building.
Council agreed to purchase the three-story former bank at 50 W. Third St. and a parking lot across the street for $175,000 from 51 W. Third St. LLC after foregoing an initial plan to construct a municipal building at 125 S. Oak St., which will now be converted into public space. The borough entered into a contract with D&M Construction, of Dalton, that includes a base bid of $405,000 for various work on the first floor of the three-story building and alternate bids totaling $45,300 for additional work.
Major work to be completed includes the installation of a heating, venting and cooling unit.
Council during their monthly meeting Thursday agreed to use $44,588 and $88,803 from Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds for fiscal years 2018 and 2019, respectively, to fix an elevator inside the building. The funds were originally allocated to “recreation and beatification.”
The only other pieces of new business at Thursday’s five-minute meeting was to announce that trick-or-treat will be held 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Oct. 30 and hire Matt Williams as a part-time officer.
MOUNT CARMEL — Mount Carmel Area School Board hired a special education teacher and competition cheer coaches during a brief meeting Thursday night.
Luke Darrup was hired as a special education teacher for grades 7 through 12 at a salary of $34,439 with benefits. Darrup will be emergency certified for the 2021-22 school year.
The board agreed to form a junior high competition cheerleading team and hired Cassandra Niglio as head varsity competition cheer coach at a salary of $1,900.
Hannah Monger and Brooke Bartol were hired as head junior high competition cheer coach and assistant junior high competition cheer coach, respectively, at salaries of $1,000 and $800.
Directors approved the purchase of mats for competition cheerleading at a cost not to exceed $7,175. The school district will pay half the cost, while the cheerleading boosters will pay the remaining half.
Marguerite Yeager was reclassified from part-time cafeteria worker to full-time cafeteria employee at her current salary with benefits. She will replace Sharon Bressi, who resigned.
Carol Lubeskie and Tammy Betsock were approved as advisers for the Class of 2025, and Brent Runge was approved as the 7th and 8th grade class adviser.
Cassandra Smith was hired as a junior-senior high school remediation specialist at $100 per day for the remainder of the school year.
Kelly Domanski was approved as a mentor for new teacher Jordan Marlow at a stipend of $500.
The board accepted the resignation of prom adviser Erica Nestico.
Superintendent Pete Cheddar thanked teachers, administrators, staff, nurses, students and parents/guardians for a successful first month of school.
He praised students for adapting well to the mask mandate.
He reminded students, parents and guardians to view the district’s back-to-school COVID-19 guide on the main website.
Cheddar said the district recently received a $5,000 grant award from International Paper that will go toward the Tornado Buddy Bag program.
The superintendent thanked International Paper and high school principal and curriculum coordinator Lisa Varano for writing the grant application.
He said Oct. 1 is the deadline for the latest Tornado Alley Brick order.
Board members participating in the meeting were President Bill Brecker, Ed Zack, Robert Muldowney, Donna James, Cheryl Latorre and Tony Mazzatesta. Directors Jame Britt, Jose Gonzalo and Joseph Zanella were absent.
The next school board meeting will be held Oct. 21.