As a Uniontown mayoral candidate, Bill Gerke routinely claimed that his opponent, incumbent Mayor Ed Fike, was a “self-appointed” mayor. Gerke’s outrageous accusation was, of course, blatantly false. Fike could not have appointed himself mayor any more than Gerke could appoint himself mayor. Gerke knew that, but he continued to repeat the lie.
Yet, that lie helped Gerke defeat Fike in last November’s election. Now, just weeks into Gerke’s administration, the “self-appointed” moniker falls glaringly on him. And he willingly, spitefully ignores it. No, not as the voters’ choice as mayor -- he won the election, although it can be argued that Gerke would have came in second because the number of registered voters in the city who, for whatever reason, didn’t bother go to the polls and cast their vote surpassed Gerke’s winning tally -- but how he not only rejected mayoral privilege but also may have ignored the law.
While still serving as mayor, Fike, within his legal authority, filled two vacancies on the City of Uniontown Redevelopment Authority. The agency, an independent body funded with federal and state funds and oversight, has the responsibility of providing and creating quality and affordable housing for Uniontown residents.
A stalwart fighting neighborhood blight and creating affordable, quality housing, Fike named Jared Billy, a former city councilman, and me, a Uniontown business owner, to fill the vacancies. Billy and I, under the Urban Redevelopment Law, are qualified to serve on the Uniontown Redevelopment Authority. And we accepted Fike’s invitation to serve non-paid positions on the Redevelopment Authority which, inexplicably had not convened in nearly five months.
Fike clearly had the legal authority to name individuals to fill the vacancies. The Urban Redevelopment Law states that vacancies on local authorities “shall be filled by the appointed power.”
That person was Fike, who still was serving out his term as mayor.
That didn’t stop Gerke.
Within days of being sworn in as mayor, Gerke rescinded Fike’s rightful, timely appointments, replacing Billy and me with his picks.
Insulting the integrity of the mayor’s office he had just assumed and abusing his power as mayor, Gerke manipulated to “self-appoint” individuals he wanted on the redevelopment authority but had no license to do so. What Gerke did stretches the law in my opinion.
Gerke’s deleterious abuse of mayoral privilege, power and the public trust is brazen. If the past is prologue, what does that portend for the future of Uniontown under Mayor Gerke?