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Neighbors feud over council vote

Masaryktown has a new honorary mayor, thanks in part to a decision by community council members to ignore group bylaws and let ineligible voters cast ballots.

"We have dozens and dozens of people that were upset about the way this was done. I'd imagine there will be legal steps taken," said John Kovacs, who was unseated by Pauline Chorvat at Sunday's community council election at the Masaryktown Community Center.

Kovacs, who has been honorary mayor of Masaryktown for six years, accused Chorvat's supporters of calling ineligible voters to the polls on her behalf.

Chorvat could not be reached for comment Monday.

In January, more than 100 residents were told they did not qualify to vote for three vacant spots on the council, including mayor.

Tempers flared, and council members changed their minds, not once but twice. Sunday, they changed their minds again.

"To try to make peace and harmony in the community and get on with our business and regroup and keep our community center intact, it was decided to . . . let the people go ahead and vote," said Bert Winney, who was re-elected council treasurer.

The Masaryktown Community Council is a non-profit, seven-member board. Its primary purposes are fund raising for student scholarships, organizing community events and upkeep of the community center in unincorporated Masaryktown.

Sunday's election was volatile at times. Without explanation, Vice Mayor James Umsted resigned and walked off the stage.

Umsted did not return telephone calls Monday.

Steve Voscinar, who was chosen as a council member for a second term, said the discord led to a healthy debate.

"Disagreement is constructive at times," he said. "I think the whole thing was very healthy."

Several incidents led to the board's decision Sunday to allow any resident who attended the meeting to vote.

On Jan. 26, election proceedings were halted when mayhem broke out after some newly registered and unregistered voters were told they could not vote. Bylaws say newly registered voters must attend at least one annual or quarterly meeting before they can cast a ballot.

That had never been an issue before, Winney said. "There wasn't really anybody new coming in to vote," she said.

On Jan. 27, the council voted to change the bylaws to make all Masaryktown residents eligible to vote, regardless of when they registered. But on Feb. 16, the board rescinded its action.

Several reasons were given, including concern that the move was illegal and might result in the group's non-profit charter being pulled. Also, some council members feared the board may have acted hastily.

"After thinking it over, we realized it was a rash decision," Winney said.

The council will decide whether to amend its bylaws to include all Masaryktown residents at a 7:30 p.m. board meeting today at the Masaryktown Community Center. Also on the agenda will be the group's new membership campaign. The public is invited to attend.

Already, some council members have formed opinions about which way they plan to vote.

"I think everybody within the community should be allowed to vote," Voscinar said. "There are going to be some changes. But there are going to be some orderly changes."

Dee Mills, a 12-year resident, said the problem is that some council members are trying to resist change reflective of the community.

"No, that's not true," Winney said. She said that in the past some council members have declined board nominations hoping that new people would get involved.

"We can't get the young people involved," Winney said. "The young people don't seem to show interest."

Voscinar agreed.

"I've preached and preached that we need the young ones to take it over. I hope that some young ones would come forward," said Voscinar, who added that he voted for one of his opponents.

"I'm ready to give them my position."

Election results

Here are the numbers from Sunday's election in Masaryktown:

Honorary mayor: Pauline Chorvat, 69 votes; John Kovacs, 52 votes.

Treasurer: Bert Winney, (unopposed) 121 votes.

Council member: (one elected) Steve Voscinar, 70 votes; Charlotte Scarsborough, 20 votes; Debbie Nelson, 25 votes.

Not up for re-election were: Linda Lovelady, secretary; John Alexsuk, council member; and Mary "Peggy" Janesek, council member. James Umsted resigned as vice mayor of the council Sunday.