City council rejects Erie mayor’s home security reimbursement

Erie Mayor Joe Schamber recently spent over $4,400 to upgrade his West Side home’s security system.

He asked the Erie City Council to sign a city-funded reimbursement for these improvements, but the council denied that request.

City Council voted 5-2 on Wednesday night against a requested refund of $4,421.60 for Schamber, who recently paid for security upgrades to his Frontier Drive home.

The work was performed by Doyle Security of Buffalo, NY

Council members Jasmine Flores, Maurice Troop, Ed Brzezinski, Michael Keys and Chuck Nelson voted against the refund. Council President Liz Allen and Councilman Mel Witherspoon voted in favor.

Schamber explained his rationale for a possible refund, and explained why he felt the upgrades were necessary, in an April 5 memorandum to members of city council.

Schamber said several incidents at or near his home in West Erie’s Frontier neighborhood have raised concerns for him and his family, including an attempted break-in at his home “about six weeks ago” that is being investigated by Erie police.

“Whatever you decide, I will respect your opinion,” Schamber wrote to council members regarding his refund request. “I will only do that if the majority of you think it’s the right thing to do.”

In his email memo to council members, Schamber mentioned that in the summer of 2020, a large group of protesters gathered in Frontier Park and “marched past our house displaying guns.” He also mentioned that during an attempted break-in at his home six weeks ago, “two people broke in through the side door”, but when the alarm sounded, “they immediately left”.

Schamber also wrote that prior to the attempted break-in, “another person left a note on my car windshield saying he planted two bombs in the Erie County Courthouse to kill people the next day. When I found this the next morning, I immediately reported it to the police. They did a thorough investigation and found nothing there.

In an interview, Schamber said new high-quality video cameras and additional alarms on various windows and doors in his home were among the security upgrades that were installed. He plans to continue to pay the monthly fees for security and alarm services himself.

“Some of these things were very scary,” Schamber said. “I’ll live with whatever the council decides, but I really think some of these things happen because I’m mayor and people know where I live.”

The city’s chief financial officer, Paul Lichtenwalter, in a separate email to city council, said the refund would be appropriate.

“I am 100% behind the expenditure of city funds on this item,” Lichtenwalter said. “We must do what is necessary to protect our elected officials. Knowing what is done and how security is handled in other cities, where some have full-time officers assisting officials like the mayor, it is a small price to pay to ensure the safety of those who have been elected to lead us.

Liz Allen, Erie City Councilwoman.

Allen called Schamber’s request “reasonable” and agreed with Lichtenwalter’s point about taxpayer-funded security details and other protections for elected officials in other cities.

“And I thought he made a cordial request,” Allen said. “He doesn’t require us to do that. He said he agreed with everything we decided.

Jasmine Flores, Erie City Councilwoman.

Flores, however, said she doesn’t think taxpayers should cover the expenses.

Contact Kevin Flowers at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @ETNflowers.

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