Selinsgrove, PA – For almost a decade Selinsgrove has been the recipient state tax dollars directed towards community development in the form of a Main Street Manager grant. In a deal that raised more than a few question over the years, and although the Boroughis the formal recipient of the grant, it was administered by the private entity Selinsgrove Projects Incorporated (SPI). As the tax-funded grant dries up, and with a quarter million dollars of grant money in-hand, MSM program employee Mary Bannon is leaving her position August 12th.
In recent years the Main Street Manager (MSM) program has been accused of being wasteful and ineffective spending; the program supposedly being used by SPI as nothing more than an offset for Susquehanna University payroll expenses and public relations efforts. The SPI board of directors’ leadership, whose #2 is SU VP of finance Mike Coyne, is largely viewed as organizational surrogates for the university.
“Its been coming” one SPI board member told SCC asking for their name to be withheld due to concerns of retaliation from SPI leadership. “They won’t be spending other people’s money anymore. The grant is running out. Now that (SPI) will have to use our own budget to cover Mary, Carol (Handlan, SPI President) isn’t being as convincing or as quick to excuse things. In three years they could fully fund a trust to maintain The Commons forever or pay Mary’s salary.”
Bannon, who along with her husband is also employed by Susquehanna University as a member of faculty, drew criticisms from local business owners by working exclusively from her on campus office. Bannon also directed significant financial payouts of Gelnett Trust funds to members of her immediate family by consistently hiring her husband and son for SPI programing. Bannon’s son was recently the sole recipient of $2,000 in business start-up funds and six months of free rent paid for by SPI through a program called T-Biz.
SCC was shown a selectively distributed press release from SPI that explained the board’s vote as well the future of the MSM program. Board President Carol Handlan will take over Bannon’s duties on an unpaid interim basis. The board decided unanimously not to fill Bannon’s position, rather using the tax-payer funds to hire an assistant for the SPI board.
When asked why the press release was selectively distributed excluding both of Selinsgrove’s dedicated media outlets, one SPI board member smirked that they “don’t think you are part of that crew.” The intentional exclusion was a matter of “trust” that the story would be told how SPI wished.
Neither Bannon or an officer of the SPI board of directors could be reached for comment.