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Reading City Council overrides Mayor Vaughn Spencer's veto of Pagoda agreement

By Ryan Hughes, Reporter, RHughes@wfmz.com
Published On: Dec 24 2013 04:26:03 PM CST
Updated On: Dec 24 2013 04:46:00 PM CST

The mayor of Reading and city council were at odds on Christmas Eve over the city's iconic landmark, the Pagoda.

READING, Pa. -

The mayor of Reading and city council were at odds on Christmas Eve over the city's iconic landmark, the Pagoda.

Council called a special meeting Tuesday to override a recent veto by Mayor Vaughn Spencer, who doesn't seem to be budging, even after the override.

Council members voted unanimously to override the mayor's veto and granted a memorandum of understanding, which will allow the Pagoda Foundation to formally operate the landmark.

"It was clear. It was loud, and hopefully we'll be able to move forward with this," said Francis Acosta, D, president, Reading City Council.

The Pagoda is Reading's vibrant icon, a beacon that attracts more than 30,000 visitors each year.

The foundation has been operating without an agreement for more than two years.

Earlier this month, Spencer vetoed the agreement, citing the transfer of monies in March 2012. According to officials, $36,000 was transferred from the Pagoda Pennies Fund to the Pagoda Foundation.  

Spencer said he wants to assure his due diligence and has called for a forensic audit.

"My issue here is not to continue this back and forth, to resolve it, but I would like to have that forensic audit done," said Spencer.

The Pagoda Pennies Fund was donated by kids and groups. They collected the pennies in schools and stores to be used for the building.

"We really worked hard at it so the Pagoda can be enjoyed and preserved for many years," said Andrew Heller, who is now in college.

Officials said the MOU will better enhance and preserve the Pagoda.

Spencer argued he does not have a vendetta against it, but said he wants the issue cleared up.

"I'm glad council voted. I just hope that Vaughn will be kind enough to sign it and give us the Christmas present we all want," said Lee Olsen, chairman of the Pagoda Foundation.

Spencer said he will not sign the agreement until the audit is complete. It is expected to be finished in January.