Abington Board Selects Stephen Kalinoski to Replace Benzak
The Republican won 8-6 along party lines.
The Abington Board of Commissioners last night selected Republican Stephen Kalinoski to replace Ward 6 Commissioner Les Benzak. Benzak stepped down in May after he announced that he was moving out of the township.
The vote was 8-6, along party lines.
Strangely, Benzak defeated Kalinoski in the race for Ward 6 in 2005.
Just after the board officially accepted Benzak's resignation, Commissioner Wayne Luker read a letter that Benzak submitted to the board. In the letter, Benzak said he supported North Hills resident Francis Earley to be his successor. It reads:
"I have received a number of emails and phone calls over the past month concerning my resignation as of May 25, 2012. Many North Hills and Ardsley residents are concerned about the transparency of the process in which my sucessor will be chosen to represent the seat in Ward 6.
A recent item in Abington Patch suggested that Mr. Stephen Kalinoski will be named as my successor without any input from the residents. I respectfully ask that the board consider Francis Earley to serve the balance of my term ..."
The audience in the board room seemed split down the middle, and some residents seemed bothered by the fact that the board could replace Benzak, a Democrat, with a Republican.
Commissioner Carol Gillespie took a jab at Benzak and many other Democratic commissioners — including commissioners Lori Schreiber, Luker and former commissioners Ernie Peacock and Benzak — for not voting for her three years ago.
Gillespie was nominated for, and ultimately won the seat left by her husband, Commissioner Michael Gillespie, who died three years ago.
“[Michael Gillespie] didn’t leave on a whim, he died,” Gillespie said. “I think there’s a big difference here.
“I think we have to take everything into consideration,” she continued. “I’m just really upset that people could feel they could do that three years ago and then change … I think, what goes around, comes around, to tell the truth.
The comment drew some groans from the audience.
“It is politics — it’s the way it works,” Gillespie added.
Commissioner Steven Kline said he never received a call regarding the Kalinoski nomination. He also said the board should honor Benzak’s recommendation, as he served the Ward well.
“It would be wrong for this board to use [this] opportunity to affect the balance of political power,” Kline said. “A change of political power is something that should be determined by the voters of Ward 6, not us.”
Toward the end of the discussion, President Carol DiJoseph chided Benzak for stepping down and not notifying his constituents.
“I’m not going to sit here and cast dispersions on Benzak — he’s not here to defend himself — but I do believe it was his obligation to inform his constituents," DiJoseph said. "That is something he did not do. That is not our job as commissioners here."
The seat will be up for re-election in November 2013.
Abington solicitor Rex Herder said it was the board's duty to fill the seat within 30 days.