West York accepts mayor's resignation

Sean Philip Cotter

Charles Wasko's days are numbered as West York mayor, and it's a pretty low number: four, after West York's borough council voted unanimously on Monday to accept his resignation.

Council President Shawn Mauck will take over as mayor when Wasko's resignation becomes effective Friday, and he'll serve out the rest of the mayor's term, which is up for a vote next year.

Wasko, who wasn't at the council meeting Monday night, has repeatedly ignored messages and knocks on the door from The York Dispatch since the paper brought his racist Facebook posts to light in September.

West York throws out mayor's suspension of chief

Wasko, who was elected mayor in 2013, has made several posts on Facebook this year that council members and community members took issue with. Two compared President Barack Obama and his family to apes, and one suggested Obama should be hanged with a noose. Another post featured a fictional black person saying that socialism is "when the white folks work every day so we can get all our governmental entitlement stuff for free."

West York Mayor Charles Wasko.

The post with the noose appears to have been removed, but the others remain up on his public Facebook page.

At a meeting  Oct. 3, after listening to residents largely stating that they wanted Wasko out, the West York Borough Council unanimously censured the mayor and advised the borough's solicitor to look for "any means possible" to remove him from office. Those motions came after a parade of locals spoke for an hour and a half, almost all calling the mayor's posts on Facebook racist and unacceptable.

Letter: On Oct. 11, Wasko sent borough officials a letter that listed four requests and stated that he would acquiesce to the council's demands if any of the requests were met. Mauck repeated Monday what he said several times last week: The council wasn't going to make public three of the four demands, as they relate to personnel matters, but one of the demands was that the department "entertain the idea" of hiring an experienced police officer of the rank of sergeant or higher who could become chief.

Councilman Shawn Mauck asks the council to vote after a motion is made and seconded for Mauck to be appointed mayor during the West York Borough Council meeting in West York on Monday, Oct. 17, 2016.
(Dawn J. Sagert photo)

They "gladly entertained that idea" "literally within 10 minutes of receiving the letter," Mauck said, so the council met the conditions.

The council members told Wasko they were planning a vote to accept his resignation Monday, Mauck said, but he didn't show. Mauck allowed the other six council members to unanimously second his motion to accept Wasko's removal before the council passed it 7-0 with a roll-call vote.

"Absolutely," said Vice President Richie Stalhe Jr. when his name was called.

"Positively," said councilwoman Shelley Metzler when it was her turn.

The crowd of several dozen people, including Democratic county commissioner Doug Hoke, Republican 95th state House district candidate Joel Sears and local NAACP President Sandra Thompson, burst into applause.

New mayor: Immediately after that, Metzler made a motion to appoint Mauck as permanent mayor, filling out the rest of Wasko's term. With Mauck abstaining, the six council members voting passed that unanimously.

Mauck spoke briefly about that, reassuring someone in the audience who worried out loud that the movement to the more symbolic position of mayor would limit Mauck's ability to effect change.

"I promise to be the most active mayor the borough of West York has ever seen," Mauck said.

In Pennsylvania, borough mayors' power is limited; mayors don't vote on council matters unless there's a tie, but they are encouraged to provide another voice in council discussions. Borough mayors also are allowed some power over the day-to-day operations of a borough police department.

That point relating to Wasko came to a head over the last couple of weeks when, on Sept. 30, the mayor showed up at the borough offices shouting suspension threats at Matt Millsaps, who has been acting police chief since the start of September, when then-Chief Justin Seibel was placed on administrative leave in what remains an ongoing personnel matter. Then, Wasko moved to suspend Millsaps last week in the letter he sent to officials. Mauck originally said Millsaps had been temporarily suspended, but then the borough decided the suspension was without cause, so Millsaps was then unsuspended a couple of hours later.

Zah'maya Chambers, 4, front, of West York Borough, and Carla Christopher, of York City, during West York Borough Council Meeting in West York Borough, Monday, Oct. 17, 2016. The council would later accept the resignation of Mayor Charles Wasko. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Police: Mauck said one of his main goals now as soon-to-be mayor is to continue to make West York Borough Police into a community-policing force. Millsaps highlighted the work of officers Bri Wilson and Scott Musselman during the meeting for good community policing, and the council approved the promotion of Michael Mendez to detective.

During Monday's meeting, councilman Brian Wilson said he has heard that many people of color worry about driving through West York..

"I hear a lot of minorities get pulled over in the borough, so they don't come into the borough," he said.

Mauck said that he plans to ask the council to adopt the recommendations from the President's Task Force on 21st Century Policing as a model for the department, and he wants a training regimen "second to none" following those standards.

"I want it done in my first 100 days as mayor," Mauck said.

— Sean Cotter covers York City for The York Dispatch. Contact him atscotter@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at@SPCotterYD.