Helfrich's conflict of interest waiver conspicuously absent from agenda

Matt Enright
York Dispatch

Perhaps the most notable thing about Wednesday's City Council committee meeting is what's not on the agenda.

That is: a waiver that would allow Michael Helfrich to be represented by the city solicitor in the challenge to his eligibility as mayor.

"It never made it out of committee," Council President Sandie Walker said Tuesday, "so until we want to bring it back for discussion, it will stay exactly where it's at."

Mr. Sandy's Homeless Veterans Center director Sandie Walker serves lunch to Country Meadows Retirement Community resident and Navy veteran Richard Martin, 96, at the veteran's assistance center in York City Friday, March 29, 2019. Country Meadows staff served lunch to community veterans at its visiting residents at the center, named after Sandie's father, Vietnam Veteran Sandy Walker. The visit coincided with National Vietnam War Veterans Day. Bill Kalina photo

The matter won't be discussed further until a council member or the city administration requests it, she added.

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The last time the conflict of interest waiver was discussed, the council had plenty of questions for the solicitor's office. That includes who, exactly, will be paying for Helfrich's legal defense. He is currently represented by attorney Glenn Smith.

In the eyes of solicitor Jason Sabol, the city needs to pay for Helfrich's defense.

At the time, council asked how he had arrived at that conclusion. According to Walker, it's still waiting for an answer.

The council asked at the April committee meeting where he'd gotten that interpretation. Walker said she still hasn't gotten that answer.

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"I should not have to ask again when it's been asked publicly and it's on the record," she said.

Neither Sabol nor fellow solicitor Don Hoyt responded to requests for comment Tuesday.

Six new York City police officers were sworn in Monday afternoon, April 11, 2022, at York City Hall. Bil Bowden photo

York City Mayor Michael Helfrich

Helfrich himself said he didn't have an update on the price for his legal defense, which he previously estimated was $5,000. On the conflict of interest waiver, Helfrich said that he reserved the right to revisit it but that he hadn't asked for it to be on the agenda.

"I have not been presented with a bill, and I have not asked. Glenn hasn't asked," the mayor said. 

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The lawsuit filed by 18 city residents, including several former officials, alleges that because Helfrich did not take the oath of office within the  14 days mandated by the third-class city code, he is ineligible for office. Helfrich's position — argued by one of the solicitors, Sabol — is that the city's own code does not specify a timeline for when an oath of office must be taken.

If Common Pleas Judge Clyde Vedder rules against Helfrich, a new mayor would be appointed by President Judge Maria Musti Cook.

On the agenda: Wednesday's committee meeting includes items related to a $1.5 million Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program grant for the Rex/Laurel Fire Station renovations, a budget amendment authorizing $500,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funds toward the Habitat for Humanity Chestnut Street housing project and $60,000 toward the "It's About Change" program assisting re-entry for  former offenders.

Any of the motions discussed in committee meetings must be approved by the council before it can forward to a full vote.

The council will also hold a special meeting before Wednesday's committee meeting, to discuss a number of smaller outreach programs through the city's health department. The reason for the special meeting is the council typically takes a recess after its first meeting in June. If items aren't introduced at the special meeting, they would not legally be able to be passed until the end of the recess in July.

The special meeting will begin at 6 p.m.   in the City Council Chambers, 101 South George St., York with the committee meeting following immediately after. 

The meeting will be streamed on the city's Facebook page at www.facebook.com/CityofYorkPA and on White Rose Community TV's YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/c/WhiteRoseCommunityTV.

— Reach Matt Enright via email at menright@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @Matthew_Enright.