YARDLEY BOROUGH >> The borough council on Tuesday voted 4 to 1 to appoint former Councilman Ryan Berry to a two year seat on council ending on Jan. 3, 2022.
Berry, a registered Independent, was one of four candidates who stepped forward to fill a vacancy on council created by the resignation of Republican Sandi Brady in early November.
The other candidates were Bristol Township special education teacher Demetrius Houmas, investment banker Matthew Curtin and recent college graduate Akvile Montvilaite.
Councilwoman Caroline Thompson, who chairs the council’s community outreach committee, thanked the applicants for stepping forward and putting themselves out there.
“It takes a special person to be interviewed by this council and on live stream,” said Thompson. “We thank them for their willingness to serve and the work they put into their interviews and applications.”
Before announcing the committee’s recommendation, Thompson said they had not received confirmation from Montvilaite that she had registered to vote. As a result, her application was withdrawn from consideration.
Under state law, a person cannot be appointed to office unless they are a registered voter.
Thompson then recommended that Berry receive the appointment for three reasons. First, he was the only applicant who regularly attended council meetings, she said.
“This is a mid-term appointment and we’re hoping the person we appoint can be up and running on council business immediately,” said Thompson.
Secondly, Thompson said Berry’s four year tenure was important in the recommendation. “His institutional knowledge was an important factor in the decision,” said Thompson.
“Mr. Berry is the only candidate who is actively involved in Yardley Borough community projects and committees,” added Thompson. “It’s clear that his application to serve is not a one off or a whim.
“And finally it’s an unexpected task for this council to appoint someone to a council seat. Quite frankly it’s uncomfortable to do something that the voters of the community should be doing. And so it seemed right to choose the next highest vote getter in the most recent election. Ryan is that individual,” she said.
Councilman Mike Ruttle strenuously objected to the appointment, citing a lawsuit that he filed accusing Berry of “falsifying evidence” on a number of occasions.
“If he has committed a third degree misdemeanor, that’s a relative problem ... And I think it’s irresponsible of this body to saddle the incoming council with a person who might not be able to serve or at least serve a full term,” said Ruttle.
Ruttle also said he felt “very uncomfortable” that a lame duck council would be making the decision when there’s just one month to go before a new council takes the reins of borough government.
The solution is simple, he added, encouraging council to consider either councilperson-elect Kim Segal-Morris and John McCann for the vacancy. But when he asked Segal-Morris and McCann if they would do so, both said they would not.
Responding to Ruttle, Council President Bryon Marshall said Council had already decided to proceed down a certain path with regard to the appointment. “That decision has been made and a candidate is before us,” he said, telling Ruttle to “make your point.”
Councilman Matt Ross added that Ruttle’s recommendation that the vacancy be left for the new council to fill is incorrect. “Per the borough code, we have 30 days from the date the person resigns to fill the seat. We only have until Thursday to fill the seat,” he said.
Ruttle said either of the council members-elect could fill the seat if they are willing.
“But that’s my point. You just heard that they are not. And it would be a two year seat not a four year seat, which they were elected to,” said Ross.
Following the discussion, council voted to appoint Berry to the vacancy. He was subsequently sworn in by Mayor Chris Harding before taking his seat at the council table.
Berry, a political independent who has served on council for the past four years but lost his re-election bid on Nov. 5, resigned his seat on council in order to submit his application for Brady’s open seat.
During his term on council, Berry led efforts to preserve the Reading Avenue Woods and recently took on the task of updating the town’s floodplain ordinance, a task he said he’d like to see through to completion.
“I still feel I have something to contribute,” Berry said during public interviews held by council two days before Thanksgiving.
During the public interview, Berry said his top priority would be to see the next phase of the North Main Street sidewalk completed. “It’s all contingent upon funding, but that would be my top priority.”
Another top priority, said Berry, would be “keeping the borough’s finances in good shape, maintaining what what we have at high quality and to plan for the future.”
Also during the interview, Berry said he is “proud of the last four years” and his performance on council, adding that he’s been a productive member of council, positive and cooperative and would do the same if appointed.
“I come to every meeting. I do what I say I’m going to do. And I do compromise. I am reliable and my track record proves that,” he said.
Following his appointment on Tuesday, Berry expressed thanks to council “for its confidence in me to rejoin the governing body. I’m humbled by the opportunity, which is a great privilege.
“I also thank my fellow applicants for their enthusiasm and I again thank Sandi for her service,” he said. “I will strive to serve the remainder of her term over the next two years honorably and make the best decisions possible.
“I thank the council and the Yardley Borough community for the opportunity unity to serve. It’s a great privilege,” he said. “I’m excited and I’m looking forward to continue the work.”
Berry reiterated that his top priorities will be the North Main Street sidewalk project, replacement of the Mary Yardley Footbridge and updating the town’s floodplain ordinances.
“I’m ready to get to work,” he said.