State Ethics Commission reaches consent agreement with a Reynoldsville Borough Council member

Reynlow Community News recently received an email containing a link to a Pennsylvania State Ethics Commission finding concerning a filing against Ralph “Tucker” August, a member of the Reynoldsville Borough Council.

The decision was made on October 28 of last year. According to the document, the allegations concern the payments August received for mowing the flood control projects dating back to 2016. For several years prior, August had been mowing the areas at no cost to the borough, but at the suggestion of then council member Jack Matusky, he and his company, R. T. August Services, began to receive payments in June 2016 for the work being done while he was a member of council.

During a December 2016 meeting of council, a motion was made and seconded to approve a payment to August for the mowing services. August was at the meeting and voted to approve. The document also states that August signed some of the checks he received as payment.

According to the document, there were a total of 11 checks from June 2016 to September 2019 totaling $12,013.68 in relation to mowing and other services provided by August or his company. The report also states that there had been no formal contract for mowing between council and August and no hourly rate was set, but that he was paid the same hourly rate as borough laborers. The same was true for snow removal services he provided to the borough in 2015 using his own equipment.

It also states that August completed 105.5 hours of work for the borough in 2020 but did not ask for nor receive payment.

The findings also alledged that August failed to file the proper Statement of Financial Interest form in 2017 and what it termed “deficient” Statement of Financial Interest forms for 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2018.

In its findings, the Ethics Commission stated that no violation of the more serious aspect of allegations, that August used his position to gain benefit for himself or his business, occurred since what he was doing was “tacitly approved” by council. However, there were some violations that did occur concerning the meeting approval, check signing, and financial interest forms.

A consent agreement was approved by the commission where August agreed to return $500 to the borough and “seek nor accept any remuneration from the Borough of Reynoldsville…” August will also file “complete and accurate financial statements” for the years 2014 through 2018. The commission recommended no further action be taken and no specific recommendations would be made “to any law enforcement or other authority in this matter.”

Reaction

Reynlow Community News reached out to council member August about the Ethics Commission report.

August confirmed what was in the report, but he he said council bears some of the responsibility as well.

“They didn’t do it the right way,” he said.

August stopped billing the borough in 2020, which was confirmed in the report.

Why this was not addressed at a borough council meeting in 2020 was also a question that was being asked.

Joe Ryan, solicitor for the Borough of Reynoldsville, said the council simply wasn’t aware. In an email he stated, Council was not a party to this action and was not notified by the State Ethics Commission that a decision had been rendered.”

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