Commissioner calls for colleague’s resignation
A Whitehall Township commissioner is calling for the resignation of a fellow commissioner after he allegedly made an inflammatory statement during the municipal primary May 21.
According to Commissioner Joseph Marx Jr., the “only appropriate action would be a resignation” after Commissioner Jeffrey Warren made the comment heard by a third commissioner at a township polling place.
Marx, who was running for mayor on the Democratic ticket in the primary, said he was telling a voter he was a Marine Corps veteran when Warren allegedly said, “Timothy McVeigh was also a veteran.”
Marx said he was not close enough to hear Warren’s comment, but Philip Ginder, township board vice president, was close enough to hear it. Ginder also is a veteran and was very upset by the comment, according to Marx. Ginder declined to elaborate on the incident.
Timothy McVeigh was a terrorist who, in 1995, set off a bomb at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City that killed 168 people and injured more than 680. McVeigh had served in the military as an Army infantryman during the Gulf War.
“To color veterans as terrorists is unforgivable,” Marx said. “I cannot engage with this gentleman anymore. I don’t feel he can serve the 1,750 veterans who live in Whitehall Township.”
At the end of the June 3 board of commissioners workshop meeting, Warren apologized for his comment.
“I made an utterance to myself that was heard by others and was out of character,” Warren said. “That is not what is in my heart.”
Warren said he had apologized to Marx and Ginder.
“I tried to make apologies,” he said. “I didn’t intend to hurt anyone’s feelings. I have strong support for Mr. Marx, Mr. Ginder and all veterans. Sometimes, you say things you don’t mean, but words matter.”
Mayor Michael Harakal Jr. called Warren’s comment “reprehensible” but said he was glad Warren was willing to take responsibility for his statement.
“He does truly regret his words,” Harakal said.
However, Marx was unwilling to accept the apology.
“For him to say that was shameful,” Marx said. “He’s done a lot of good for the community, but I don’t know where that came from.”
Marx served for five years as a jet mechanic in the Marines in the 1980s and 1990s.
In other business, the board discussed a resolution for a proposed sidewalk maintenance agreement with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation for the Cementon-Northampton Bridge. The resolution is on the agenda to be voted on at the board meeting June 10.
Township Solicitor Sarah Murray said she is concerned about a provision of the agreement that the township would be responsible for any future costs of Americans with Disabilities Act improvements to the bridge.
She said the township had previously removed that provision from the resolution and PennDOT had put it back in.
“They will not accept it with that revoked,” she said. “But I am not willing to agree to this.”
Township Engineer Frank Clark said he was concerned that the township might have to install approaches or handrails in the future.
“There’s always the danger the law could change and we could get sued,” he said.
Murray said Northampton Borough has already approved the agreement with the provision intact.
Northampton and the township share maintenance on the bridge, which connects the two municipalities.
The board agreed to follow Murray’s advice and not vote on the agreement.
“We shouldn’t be responsible for any unspecified improvements down the road,” Harakal said.
He said he would sit down and discuss the issue with PennDOT.