To do that, I have to go back to Ross Marcus, Executive John Stoffa's Director of Human Services. As Stoffa entered the twilight of his second term, Marcus sought employment elsewhere. He accepted a position with Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley (CACLV).
What is CACLV? It is a community action agency made possible by LBJ's War on Poverty. As explained by CACLV itself, its impossible mission is to combat poverty by developing programs that involve all sectors of the community — from elected officials and public sector representatives to low-income residents.
Naturally, CACLV administers County programs designed to help low-income residents, including homeless shelters and food banks. So when Marcus went to CACLV, he was continuing the work he had already been doing for eight years in human services. He was getting no stock options or bonuses in exchange for getting CACLV a deal on being the County's sole provider of poor people. He did not go there to get rich.
But when CACLV hired Marcus, it breached its contract with the County by hiring someone within a year after he left County employment.
The Revolving Door Ordinance
The County has a revolving door ordinance. It was adopted after a Director of Fiscal Affairs managed to snag a computer company as a County vendor. He then went off to work for and eventually own the business. That's not all. Another former Director of Public Works went to work for an engineering firm that he brought into the County.
This local law is aimed at preventing people from using their positions in County government to get rich instead of serving the people.
The Marcus Hire
Ross Marcus, as Director of Human Services, did have discretion over CACLV contracts. Because CACLV hired someone who has a say in whether they get the County's poor people business, they breached a few contracts. Not Marcus, but CACLV. Never mind that nobody else can do what CACLV does.
It is a breach of contract, but the evil at which the revolving door ordinance is aimed, simply did not exist. There's not a lot of money in the poverty business.
Moreover, CACLV Executive Director Alan Jennings pledged that Marcus would have no involvement in any Northampton County contracts for at least the next year. County Council was made aware of the breach, and Executive John Stoffa informed them he had no intention of pulling the plug on any CACLV contracts. Because Council has no authority to pursue breach of contract action, that's Stoffa's sole call.
The McClure Ordinance
Fast on the heels of this hire, Lamont McClure proposed changes to the County's Administrative Code. Though he chairs the County's legal and judicial committee, he conducted no hearings on his proposal. He added a section to the revolving door ordinance.
No officer or employee shall serve on any authority, board or commission, or any such entity, that does business with and/or provides paid services to the County of Northampton for a period up to and including one (1) year following the termination of the employee from County Service.Why did he propose this? Good government? The answer, quite simply, is revenge.
Angry about the Marcus hire, McClure wanted to punish those who he thought were behind it. Lori G. Sywensky and Alicia Karner, both of whom are County employees, serve on the CACLV Board. He wants them to suffer for the Marcus hire, even though Karner and possibly Sywensky did not even participate in the vote. He wanted to make their very existence on the CACLV Board illegal.
Community action agencies like CACLV are supposed to include representatives from the public sector. Lori Sywensky is there as a watchdog for Northampton County, just as Lehigh County employee Frank Kane is a watchdog for his County's interests. These are unpaid positions.
The McClure amendment actually deprives Northampton County of financial oversight over the money sent to CACLV. It also denies a voice to the County's poorest community.
When some began to express concern that this would impact both Karner and Sywensky, McClure sanctimoniously responded that he wanted to keep personalities out of it. But it is his disdain for Marcus, Stoffa and CACLV that prompted the ordinance. Why else propose it so soon after the Marcus hire? Moreover, he's sending a signal to Executive hopeful John Callahan, who is considering keeping both Karner and Sywensky.
What amazes me is that only three Council members saw the folly of the McClure maneuver. Peg Ferraro expressed concern about both Alicia and Lori, and suggested that the amendment should have no application to nonprofits. But McClure wanted a vote. Bruce Gilbert and Barb Thierry joined Peg Ferraro to vote against this change, but the rest went along blindly to adopt an ordinance that was never properly vetted.
The Negative Impact of the McClure Amendment
In addition to depriving the County and its poorest community of any representation on the area agency designed to fight poverty, Lamont's Law will have other very negative impacts:
* Bob Mateff, Northampton County's Director of Emergency Management, will have to drop out of several emergency management boards on which he serves, including various first responder and HAZMAT teams. This jeopardizes our security and readiness for emergencies.
* Lori Sywensky, our Community Development Director, will have to resign from the Northampton County Housing Authority Board, which assists in community development. This negatively impacts those in need of affordable housing.
* Tom Harp, Northampton County's Director of Administration, will have to resign from the Board of DiscoverLV, which is designed to promote the Lehigh Valley. This compromises our ability to attract potential employers.
* Executive John Stoffa would be required to resign from a host of boards, including the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission and LVEDC. This will hurt us in almost every area of County government, and weakens the authority of the Executive.
This is what you happens when a law is prompted by malice instead of a desire for good government, and is pushed through without proper consideration.
Will Stoffa Veto?
Though the amendment passed with six votes, this clearly is a mistake. Hopefully, other Council members will see they were played. I have no idea whether Executive John Stoffa will veto this legislation, and neglected to talk to him.