When he ran for Northampton County Council, Lamont McClure set himself up as a "law and order" tough guy who would grab child molesters with one hand while jabbing terrorists with the other. He lost.
Now it's the voters turn to lose. Thanks to some back-room maneuvering, McClure managed to get himself appointed to a Council vacancy. And "law and order" McClure, whose campaign was heavily funded by the DA and his staff, is now Chairman of Council's Judicial and Legal Committee. He was appointed by Council Prez Grube, who also coughed up $500 to fund McClure's losing campaign.
The "law and order" committee met yesterday to consider more effective ways to collect outstanding fines and costs from people whose financial woes are usually what get them in trouble in the first place. Let's face it, most criminal defendants aren't exactly sitting in the lap of luxury.
Now I don't know whether McClure was getting collection tips from loansharks, bookies, or the bastards at my video store because I wasn't there. In fact, not a single member of the public attended.
This is because the meeting itself was illegal. Both the Sunshine Act and Northampton County's Home Rule Charter require that public notice of the time, date and place of a meeting be posted prominently at the government center. Now a notice was posted, but it never told us WHERE this meeting was to take place. As it happens, the meeting occurred in the bowels of Council chambers, well behind closed doors.
Now don't forget that we have a new $43 million government expansion, complete with wind-sensitive fountains and private bathrooms for each judge. You'd think that someone somewhere might consider the public's need for a more accessible meeting place than Council's private boudoir.
And Lamont McClure, a lawyer, should know better than to conduct a meeting when the posted notice doesn't even tell us where it will occur. Of all committees, one would expect a "Legal" committee chaired by a lawyer to at least try to follow the law.
Of course, I keep forgetting that the decision to appoint McClure was itself as violation of the Sunshine Act. And since he was rejected by the voters, he's not there to represent the people's interests by doing silly things like following the law. Instead, he's trying to please his buddy and financial supporter, the DA, by looking like he's tough on crime. And I guess it doesn't matter whether he violates our Sunshine Act. After all, who's going to prosecute this dude? The DA? Try again. The state Attorney General? He's probably not too interested in pursuing a matter that would only result in a $25 fine.
We need a tougher Sunshine Act. Even more importantly, we need government officials who understand the importance of conducting the people's business in public.