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Sparks Fly at Collingdale Council Meeting Over Tax Audit Plan

Tempers flared between Collingdale Borough Council members this week over a plan to hire a western Pennsylvania accounting firm to find $330,000 in missing property tax collections.

The discrepancy was discovered last December following an audit of tax collections from 2022 by borough auditor George Fieo. The money represents 13 percent of the borough’s tax collections for the year.

The council voted last month for an audit of the entire borough.

But Council President Ryan Hastings suddenly changed course on Tuesday. He put forward a resolution that limited the audit to just the Tax Collector’s Office.

The change astonished councilwoman and former mayor Felecia Coffee. “We went from that to this, for real?” she said.

Hastings said several certified public accountants turned down the Borough’s request for a full audit. Louis Plung and Company offered to review the tax collector’s office.

There’s a nationwide shortage of accountants with The Wall Street Journal reporting that more than 300,000 called it quits from 2019 to 2021. And fewer college students are going into accounting to meet the demand.

Collingdale could get a full forensic audit from the state Department of Community and Economic Development, however. And there are still questions on whether the Borough Council planned to make Tax Collector Diane Hunter a scapegoat for the missing cash.

Coffee and Stephen Zane are the only council members who have publicly said they had spoken with Hunter. She allegedly has a complete record of her activity as tax collector, including emails and any documents that have her signature.

The Tax Collector’s Office is also reviewing events surrounding the missing money. Zane said he was told some of the money had been found.

One part of the problem could be that Collingdale did not change its budget to accommodate adjusted property taxes. According to Coffee, Hunter said the borough has occasionally included tax figures from initial property appraisals in the budget instead of waiting for the property appeals process to play out to get a firm, final number.

“We lose the money that we once had assessed at one million dollars and we have to go with the money that was lesser than,” said Coffee.

Hastings rejected that argument. He said Fieo told him, “That’s not what the case is here.”

Tensions over the audit proposal boiled over during the council meeting. As Hastings and Coffee argued over the limited audit, Hastings said he didn’t want to be interrupted and muttered something under his breath that Coffee took to be directed toward her.

Coffee lashed out. “I’m not your child,” she said. “I don’t disrespect you or your mother. So don’t do me!”

Hastings and Coffee did not respond to emails asking for more information about the confrontation.

That wasn’t the only time that Coffee tangled with Borough Council leadership during debate on the audit.

She and Vice President Stacey Calhoun exchanged words as votes were being counted.

“Just make sure when you become mayor, everything is correct,” scoffed Calhoun.

“I’m not going to become mayor,” responded Coffee. “Thank you.”

Louis Plung and Company will be paid $15,000 to audit the Collingdale tax collector’s office. The start date of the audit is unknown.

Former Scanlon Staffer and Mayoral Candidate at Center of Controversy Over Money Missing from Chichester Football Booster Club

A former staffer for U.S. Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon and former candidate for mayor of Trainer stands at the center of a mystery surrounding thousands of missing dollars from the Chichester football booster club, according to a document obtained by Broad + Liberty.

The Chichester School District sent a letter last Friday to Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer, asking his office to investigate Faith King for her role as “bank signatory” for the football booster’s club from December 2021 to July 2022. The letter says $12,000 went missing from the club’s accounts during that time.

King’s attorney denied any wrongdoing by his client.

“In discussing the issues addressed in your email with my client, Ms. King would respectfully respond that she performed her duties responsibly, ethically, and with fidelity to the booster club at all times,” King’s attorney, James Gallagher said. “All finances were appropriately handled, and accounts were provided as needed. Ms. King categorically denies any allegations that she misappropriated, embezzled, or otherwise used booster club funds in any illicit or unethical way.”

King was the Democratic nominee for mayor of Trainer in 2021, a borough of just under 2,000 people in Delaware County. She lost to Republican Marilyn Maher by a wide 62-37 margin.

According to quarterly expense reports published by the U.S. House of Representatives, King first appeared on Scanlon’s payroll in the second quarter of 2021. She was still listed on the congresswoman’s payroll in the most recently published expense report which covered the second quarter of 2022, employed as Scanlon’s Pennsylvania-based scheduler and outreach coordinator.

“Ms. King is no longer employed by Congresswoman Scanlon’s office,” said Carina Figliuzzi, spokeswoman for Scanlon. “The inquiry sent to the Congresswoman’s office today [by Broad + Liberty] is the first time she and her staff have been made aware of this situation or any similar accusations against Ms. King.”

Scanlon’s office did not mention when King was dismissed, or give any reasons behind her departure.

The letter from the school district to Stollsteimer goes in-depth on the district’s numerous attempts to try to get to the bottom of the issue, but claims that King stopped cooperating.

“For the past three months, the School Board has attempted to obtain information from Ms. King about the whereabouts of the disputed funds as well as an accounting of the transactions during the time that she was bank signatory,” the district’s letter to Stollsteimer said.

King does not appear to have been charged with any crime at the moment, and is presumed innocent until proven guilty. And the district stopped short of making a full allegation against her in its letter to law enforcement.

“While the school board hopes that nothing fraudulent or untoward has occurred, the School Board needs answers about these funds,” the letter said.

A request for comment to the Delaware County District Attorney’s office was not returned.

This article first appeared in Broad + Liberty.