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February 5, 2009

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The Chestnut Hill Local
8434 Germantown Ave.
Phila. PA 19118
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Local editor retains his position despite an 11th-hour motion

Two weeks after surviving a vote by the Chestnut Hill Community Association’s board to terminate his employment, Local editor Pete Mazzaccaro said he was “disappointed” by the board’s action.

“Just when you think you are moving ahead, something like this comes along and throws you back,” Mazzaccaro said. “I don’t think I did anything that warranted being fired, and I’m happy it turned out the way it did.”

The vote was taken during a closed executive session convened at about 10 p.m. after the board’s regular meeting on Jan. 22. Prior to the vote, Mazzaccaro was asked to respond to an 11-point document that raised questions about his management of the Local.

Mazzaccaro said he received the document by e-mail the day before the meeting from CHCA president Tolis Vardakis, who asked him to appear before the board in executive session to address the issues raised by the document.

Since he was told in the e-mail that the document was a continuation of a performance review that began in June 2008 and was reopened in December, Mazzaccaro asked if he could respond to the questions in writing, but was told by Vardakis that his appearance before the board was required.

“I was surprised by the request since I felt my review had concluded in December,” Mazzaccaro said.

Mazzaccaro said that during the board’s executive session he was “interrogated” for about 45 minutes, with much of the discussion focused on his role as editor and manager of the newspaper. At the end of the discussion, Mazzaccaro was asked to leave the room.

At that point, according to sources on the board, Dina Hitchcock, CHCA vice president for operations, made a motion to terminate Mazzaccaro immediately. The motion was defeated by a 14-12 vote of the board.

Although 42 of the CHCA’s 45 board members were present at the regular meeting, only 33 went into executive session, and another seven left before the vote was taken. The meeting adjourned at 11:45 p.m.

Several board members at the regular meeting made a motion against going into executive session, claiming that such action violated procedure because the session was not advertised, but were voted down by the board.

Contacted by telephone, Hitchcock said she would neither confirm nor deny any actions that took place in an executive session of the board.

In the wake of the board’s vote, three board members, Pamela Learned, Virginia Mallery and Michael Hickey, the Chestnut Hill Business Association representative, have resigned.

In an e-mail to the board, Learned said she was “deeply concerned about the legal liabilities the organization has been unwilling to face” and was resigning “because I was advised that continued service to the board would expose me unnecessarily if appropriate actions were not taken.”

“I heeded the professional counsel that I was given,” she said.

Hickey told the Local that his resignation was “a private matter.”

Mallery was unavailable for comment.

The board vacancies created by the resignations of Learned and Mallery will likely be filled by Walter Sullivan and James Foster, although their appointments have not been confirmed

Greg Welsh, president of the Chestnut Hill Business Association, said his organization would not be replacing Hickey at this time.

 

 

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