State Rep. Frank Burns made an announcement Tuesday, calling for members of the Vision Together 2025 board to be replaced by everyday citizens of the Johnstown community.
Rep. Burns claims that having elected officials and government employees on the organization’s board creates “conflicts of interest.”
“Conflicts of interest can be either real or perceived, but any reasonable person who connects the dots on who got money and who did not would probably assume some of both is happening in our community, When the same names and business or family connections keep cropping up as to where these grant dollars were directed, it’s probably more than some amazing coincidence.”
Burns adds that instead of the organization’s members being “self-appointed,” the organization should be represented by citizens from each of Johnstown’s communities.
“Only then will Vision truly live up to its own billing as a community-driven organization, It’s time for them to become what they claim to be.”
Vision Together 2025 faced public scrutiny earlier this year after it was learned that the group planned to bring refugees and immigrants to the area.
In September, the organization’s former President and CEO, Mike Tedesco, announced his resignation.
The city has argued council has had nothing to do with who got the grants. Same with City Manager Ethan Imhoff, who is also a Vision board member.
Vision themselves were rejected for a grant application with the city.
“Myself, (finance director, Robert) Ritter, and (community and economic development director, John) Dubnansky put all of that all together to objectively score each organization that applied,”
Mark Pasquarella, a member of Vision’s board as well as an appointed board member of the Johnstown Redevelopment Authority, said while Vision has its own priority goals for the community, Vision has no official say in awarding government funds.
“To the best of my knowledge, the County and the City made thorough attempts to vet their ARPA grants, Representative Burns choosing to be at permanent war with folks in the community that are getting things done and employing large numbers will most definitely hurt our community.”
John Debartola, a former Republican candidate for mayor in Johnstown who made the original connections between the grants, said he wants to see an investigation and audit of the grant program, as well for Vision.
“I applaud Rep. Burns, I’m really glad that our political leaders are taking an active interest in exposing and stopping the corruption in Johnstown That was Johnstown’s last chance to basically bounce back and they’re spending it on themselves and not the people who actually need it.”