Friday, February 28, 2014

You Cannot Recall a Local Elected Official

Someone suggested yesterday  that Northampton County Executive John Brown be impeached or recalled. When John Stoffa was executive, they wanted to do it to him, too. I thought I'd post a blog explaining that it's illegal, at least on the local level.

Lehigh County's Home Rule Charter contains no recall provisions. Of course, that small technicality has never been an obstacle to numerous citizens demanding the ouster of every County Executive I remember. They were loudest when Jane Ervin's 70% tax hike was adopted.

Northampton County, unlike Lehigh, does have recall provisions in its Home Rule Charter. Thirty per cent of the voters registered in the most recent election must sign a petition that would place the matter on the ballot. People would have to be pretty angry for that to happen.But if they were that mad, and got all the signatures needed, it would fail. It is unconstitutional.

This is explained in The Pennsylvania Legislator's Municipal Handbook. The exclusive methods for removing elected officials, including locally elected officials are Art. II, Sec. 7 (conviction of infamous crime); Art. VI, Sec. 7 (conviction of infamous crime, misbehavior in office or reasonable cause); and Art. VI, Sec. 6 (misbehavior in office). In the case of criminal convictions for infamous crimes, the courts make the call. In all other cases, it's up to the legislature to start impeachment proceedings, or the Governor, with the concurrence of 2/3 of the Senate.

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

I don't doubt what you say as to unconstitutional, but the recall petition would have to be challenged in court and the court would have to rule. I would make the case that powers were concentrated in the executive with the understanding that the person could be recalled. Absent a recall provision, the entire charter would have to be changed and voted on again. Additional checks and balances that were constitutional such as limiting terms could be considered.
And, there would be the possibility that the charter would not be reaffirmed bringing back all the row offices and commissioners. Face it, my vote for the charter and its county executive, loaded with power, was based on the fact that the population had the right of recall. Court cases denying such rights were after the charter was written and approved.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Um, the Constitution existed before the Charter.

Anonymous said...

Will your sore loser tantrum never end? Do the kids you watch play b-ball whine and stomp their feet upon losing, as you continue to do. First you cheat. Then, you lose. Then, you whine about losing. Is this the example you're setting for tomorrow's bitter drunken lawyers-to-be?

Why, yes. Yes you are.

Anonymous said...

O'Hare is well known as a nutbag in a league with the Gregory's of the world.

Anonymous said...

Um . . . Pennsylvania grants home rule in 1968 Constitution; Pennsylvania legislature creates the right of home rule in statutes passed in 1972; Pennsylvania municipalities are advised by DCA that recall provisions are permissible in proposed charters; Northampton County adopts home rule and recall provisions in 1978; Pennsylvania Supreme Court strikes down recall provision in Kingston home rule charter in 1995. The county still has a recall provision. Either the courts must rule that it is illegal or a new charter study commission has to propose its change and the electors must approve that change.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Um, the Pa Constitution is actually dated 1874. You got the wrong date, but don't let that stop you from making a fool out of yourself.

Anonymous said...

Sour grapes I see. We have no choice but to wait and see. Brown is not a politician first of all. That is a wonderful thing considering he was running against a master albeit slick politician. I'd rather think its a learning curve then wonder what slick seasoned politician is up to. This was our choice and it has been made. While I do worry about mistakes that come with learning I still believe as Brown does go along I for one will come to appreciate him.......boy do I have a hard time seeing what your letters are Bernie.a robot sees better then me I am sure.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Every politician gets the "recall" argument. They did that to Stoffa for 4 years.

Bernie O'Hare said...

And brown is a politician. It's just that the LV Partnership does a shitty job of making politicians bc they have no clue what really makes people tick.

Anonymous said...

Um . . I do not disagree with you that the The current Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, was most recently revised in 1968. Many consider the 1968 writing a new document, but technically it is heavily based on the previous Constitution of 1874, and should be considered a revision of the earlier version. On with the recall, which cannot happen until the second year of his term. The court will nullify the petition and then the entire charter can be properly challenged. Face it. We voted for a concentration of power in one person as county executive with the consideration that we had the ability to dump that person through the recall process. No recall means a new charter or no charter or an executive that can only be removed by the governor. Anyway you look at it, we, the people, get to make the final choice. Not the courts. In my opinion, there is no benefit to the charter and most counties in Pa would agree. There are 7 home rule counties in Pa. There are 67 counties in Pa.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Dude, the link I provided in my post refers to a S Ct decision, South Newton, in footnote 3, which rejected the argument you tried to make earlier. An attempt to throw out the entire Charter would fail too. The Supreme Court has ruled that this form of government is permissible. But assuming the Court did kill the Charter, that means LC would revert to the county code, which does not allow recall. You're just wrong, pretty much in all counts. I'm sorry, bc it appears to me that you have done some study on this issue. I suggest you take a look at the link in my post, read that, and then get those S Ct cases and read them.

Anonymous said...

Bernie when will your bloggers ever learn????? My money is on you.

Yes Brown is now a politician. Just not a seasoned one as stated. Maybe he finds out he dislikes the political area and doesn't run again.

These jobs tend to burn you out if you don't play the game and learn to play it well. Then you have to like who you've become. It is a thankless job unless you get into the power thing. So e can't so they leave. Probably the ones who should stay.

Anonymous said...

I thought the Charter of Local governement supercedes the State municipal code. The State municipal code guidelines on the organization of local charters.

On a side bar note, is a person's public employment record relevant if they were seeking an elected position?

Bernie O'Hare said...

1) No. State law tends to trump a home rule charter, but not on every point.

2) if you're asking whether someone like me can request someone's public personnel file if he decides to seek office, the answer is no.

Anonymous said...

UM . . I don't think that you understood my last comment. Of course, a petition for recall would or should be rejected by the court. That being the case, the electorate has three choices: 1. accept the decision of the court, do nothing and the charter stands; 2. change the charter and provide additional restraints on the power of the executive; 3. rescind the charter and return to the commissioner form of government. These alternatives can be accomplished without the interference of the courts. Simply, a charter question is placed on the ballot with proposed commission members. I would ask the court to mandate that question to appear on the ballot. If the court elects not to address the ballot question, petitions for a charter study question can still be gathered. In the end, the electorate, and not the court, decides what is best for the county. If you and a majority of county voters agree with the courts, then, I would expect that the question would be defeated and the powers of the executive would remain unchanged. On the other hand, if county voters disagree, then a new charter study commission could review the powers of the county executive and recommend nothing, recommend something or totally recommend termination of home rule. The electorate would agree or not agree. In the end the electorate would make the decision and not the courts. (My computer does not pick up the page that contains your referenced footnote 3. I have read the South Newton Township case and do not believe it is relevant to what I am saying. In one sense I understand the constitutionality issue, but the court does not govern what the electorate can do through the charter study and referendum process. Simply, if recall is not available, then some other check and balance must be placed on the executive. If the courts will not do so, and I do not think that they should, then, the electorate must act. I would agree that the courts would not throw out the entire charter. They might enable a ballot question for further study. That would leave power in the hands of the electorate.)

Anonymous said...

"Thirty per cent of the voters registered in the most recent election must sign a petition that would place the matter on the ballot. People would have to be pretty angry for that to happen.But if they were that mad..."

That could happen.

You've got the lefties all fired up, and we Ayn Rand'ers who see he is not our cup of tea but a puppet of the blue hairs. An unholy coalition, to be sure. But, if he keeps up the Sletvold and consultant nonsense, we could easily see much more than 30% support.

-Clem

Bernie O'Hare said...

That portion of the HRC is unconstitutional, Clem.

Anonymous said...

Understood. Was only talking about the will, not the way.

He will be a one-hit wonder if his only allies are the string-pullers.

-Clem

Anonymous said...

Who would give any credence to your views on the constitutionality of anything?
Only a fool.

Bernie O'Hare said...

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which agreed with my analysis of the 2000 bond.