Five absentee ballots in November 2011 allowed Larry Stoudt to retain his seat on Nazareth Borough Council until 2016. He has served on Council for more than 30 years.
“I'm going to do the best I can and work for the betterment of the community,” Stoudt told Patch after his competitor, Thomas Heckman, conceded defeat.
One year and three days later, a Palmer Township district judge ordered Stoudt, who is facing charges of obstructing a state police probe, to stay out of borough Police Department headquarters.
During Council’s Nov. 19 Police Committee meeting, a resident asked about Stoudt’s future as an elected official.
“He’s charged. He hasn’t been adjudicated yet,” explained Dan Chiavaroli, president of Council. “Only the governor can remove him, or he has to resign on his own.”
Should Larry Stoudt Resign from Nazareth Borough Council? Tell us in the comments section below.
According to Act 43 of 2012, which modernized and recodified the Borough Code, “Only the courts have the authority to remove an elected official for conviction of serious crimes under Pennsylvania constitution.”
The state Department of Community & Economic Development adds, “[The] Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled in 1995 that the Pennsylvania State Constitution only allows an elected official to be removed from office through impeachment, conviction of a crime, or misbehavior in office.”
Although citizens cannot force a council member to resign, Chiavaroli said they could submit letters asking Stoudt to consider that route.
Stoudt, 74, was charged Oct. 9 with one misdemeanor count of criminal attempt-obstruction of law or government for allegedly trying to interfere with a Pennsylvania State Police undercover investigation. He faces a maximum of two years in prison and $5,000 in fines.
He waived his right to a preliminary hearing Nov. 21 in front of District Judge Jackie Taschner. He said he plans to apply for the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program for first-time offenders.
Stoudt allegedly asked Nazareth's police chief to run the driver's license of a suspected liquor enforcement officer, court records say, in an attempt to protect the local American Legion post from undercover, prying eyes.
According to a police criminal complaint, Stoudt approached police Chief Thomas Trachta with his request at borough Police Department headquarters on May 24, exactly one month after the Pennsylvania State Police Liquor Enforcement Office executed a search warrant on the Nazareth Jacksonian Club.
Stoudt told Taschner that as chairman of council's Public Property Committee, he is permitted to enter the police department. But, he noted, other committee members can handle his duties when the police department is involved.
As part of his bail conditions, Taschner ordered Stoudt to not enter borough Police Department headquarters.
During last week’s Police Committee meeting, Chiavaroli noted -- when prompted -- that Stoudt’s legal fees are not being paid for by taxpayer money.
Stoudt isn’t the only Lehigh Valley councilman in the headlines for something unflattering.
- Teen Alburtis Councilman Kyle Avery Bower was jailed Oct. 15 after allegedly tearing up a soybean field by driving through it - and violating probation in the process. He's also charged with stealing political signs. A few days after his arrest, according to a story in The Morning Call, Bower resigned his seat on Alburtis Council.
- Macungie Councilman Linn Walker apologized in Lehigh County Court as he pleaded guilty to repeatedly urinating outdoors and in front of young children. That incident occurred in early August. Walker said he would resign from Macungie Council, but recanted after he said he was told by other council members he did not have to resign.
Nazareth Borough Council will hold a workshop at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 29. The monthly business meeting will be held on Monday, Dec. 3.