Accusations of nepotism were hurled at last night's Northampton County Council meeting. County John Stoffa named Andrew Thierry as a citizen-member to the Farmland Preservation Board, which consists of seven people. Thierry's wife, Barbara, is a member of Council.
"It's called nepotism," snarked Ann McHale. Lamont McClure said there's nothing wrong with a little nepotism, but said Thierry is unqualified. Peg Ferraro stated she was unable to recall any instance in which the spouse of a Council member sat on an authority or board. Neither can I, but I do recall that McHale's husband wrote several insurance policies for the County in years past. And when Marilyn Lieberman sat on Council, she got into a bit of hot water when she inadvertently failed to inform them of a business relationship her husband had with the County.
This is an unpaid position. Board members do pay farmers who agree to preserve their land, and decide how much to pay. Neither Thierry nor his wife owns any farms. There's no conflict of interest I can discern. Neither can Bruce Gilbert. "In this case, I do not see any perception of impropriety, nor do I see that impropriety would occur.
When Easton Mayor Sal Panto lobbied for his wife's appointment to City Council, I thought that was a bad idea. "A decision to put that much power in the hands of one family should be made by the voters, not four city council members." But this is the frickin' Farmland Preservation Board, which is about as exciting as watching laundry dry.
"I wish I could tell you and Mr. Stoffa could tell you that we have people jumping over backwards to go on there. He and I for months have chased every farmer in the County to get one or two farmers to be on there. ... People don't want to serve," said Council Prez Ron Angle.
Council did approve Thierry's appointment. Barb Thierry abstained while McHale and McClure said No.