In another bizarre twist in the tumultuous politics of the Volant borough, detectives from the Lawrence County District Attorney’s Office served a search warrant Thursday afternoon at the Volant municipal building, a city official said.

Detectives were seen carrying boxes from the building and placing them into a white van.

A lawsuit filed April 9 by New Castle attorney Christopher Papa, on behalf of a group of merchants, alleges the borough illegally collected roughly $15,000 in licensing fees from about 20 merchants, without maintaining the public restroom. The suit alleges the fees were illegally placed in the borough’s general fund.

Last week, however, Mayor Ingrid Both Hoesl told the New Castle News the borough was broke.

The public restroom remains closed.

Thursday’s raid preceded a council meeting at 6:30 p.m. at the Volunteer Fire Company building, where local merchants have butted heads with council members, accusing them of trying to put them and their annual festivals out of business.

Merchants sponsor about 10 events and festivals a year, drawing thousands of visitors to Volant.

Janice Pearson, owner of Green Bug Glass, accused the council of breaking the law by not having the restroom open.

“Why can we not get an accurate accounting of where our merchant license fees went?” Pearson asked the council. “Why is this such a secret and so hard to produce when it’s supposed to be public information?

“You’re breaking the law by not having it open.”

When the New Castle News asked Volant secretary Carmen Ortiz Brown about the raid prior to Thursday night’s meeting, Brown said, “If you come to the meeting, you’ll have your answer.”

No answers, however, about the DA’s action or the public restroom were forthcoming during the more than hour-long meeting.

Council members declined to answer questions from the merchants, citing ongoing litigation.

Thursday’s raid was mentioned only indirectly.

During a testy exchange between merchant Cheryl Geidner, owner of 1906 Mercantile, and Sue Edwards, wife of Councilman J. Wayne Edwards.

Sue Edwards alleged Geidner was laughing and taunting “when all the papers got moved out” by detectives earlier that afternoon.

“That’s why you have the mayor in your pocket,” Edwards told Geidner.

“You want to be her inside source.”

Geidner also recounted a run-in with Brown at the borough building. Geidner said Brown flipped her off and swore at her, using multiple four-letter words.

Council President Bob McGary said he heard a different version of the same story.

Geidner told McGary to check the security cameras.

psirianni@ncnewsonline.com 

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