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Easton council quietly settles dispute over legal fees with former police captain

Published On: Jun 13 2013 12:21:11 AM EDT

Easton City Council quietly brought to an end a dispute over payment of legal fees for a former police captain.  

Council voted without comment Wednesday night to pay John Mazzeo $25,595 -- roughly one-third of the amount he racked up defending himself after being named in a lawsuit by the family of Ofc. Jesse Sollman.

Sollman was accidentally shot and killed by a fellow officer inside police headquarters in 2005.


Mazzeo was retired from the force for a year when the suit was filed, and he was ultimately dropped from the litigation.

The city's insurance company will pay the other $49,260 of Mazzeo's legal fees.

The resolution to pay Mazzeo was one of eight items approved on a voice vote as part of council's so-called consent resolution.

Another resolution in the consent agenda was a $2,600 budget for the city's Ethics Committee.

Most of the money -- $1,800 -- will be used to pay an independent solicitor.

The committee will spend $500 on a public forum explaining the Right to Know law, and the remaining $300 will be used to hire an investigator, if one if needed.

The committee was created to investigate potential legal and ethical violations among city staff and elected officials by the city's 2007 Home Rule Charter, but it only held its first meeting three months ago.

Before council's vote, committee chairman Terrence Miller and committee member Jeremy Clark notified Mayor Sal Panto of a vacancy on the five-member committee and asked him to fill it quickly.

Panto said two people who volunteered were ineligible because they live just beyond Easton's city limits in neighboring Wilson borough. 

He added that he will chose from among three other volunteers and name a replacement at council's next meeting.

Council member Michael Fleck told Miller and Clark he is glad the committee exists, "but I hope we use this sparingly."

Fleck said ethics investigations cost the city of Reading $600,000 last year.

Miller replied, "We don't want to exploit the city. ... We don't want witch hunts."

Panto also outlined a schedule for council to find a replacement for Fleck, who last month announced he will resign because he and his young family are moving to Allentown, where his political and government consulting business is.

Fleck's resignation becomes effective July 16.

People interested in being considered must live in Ward 4, 5, 6, 7, 8E or 8W and be a registered voter, the mayor said.

Applicants must submit a resume by July 3. Interviews will be held at council's July 9 workshop.

Council will make its selection after Fleck officially steps down, perhaps on July 24.