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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Friday, December 07, 2007

Norco Elections Commission: Garvin's Out, & Rosenthal's in Trouble, Too

Radio star Wally G caused quite a stir last year when it was learned that he's actually Norco Elections Commission chair Walter R. Garvin. In addition to hosting a partisan radio show advertised on Norco Dem's web page, he was also a party officer - an area chairman as well as a committeeman.

Northampton County's Home Rule Charter forbids anyone who sits on an elections committee from holding public office or acting as an officer in a political party. In addition, Council Solicitor Zito warns that since an elections commission is a quasi judicial body, its members must avoid the appearance of impropriety. Although Garvin did resign his party position, he continued to engage in partisan political activity, hosting partisan radio shows and participating in anti-Dent rallies.

As a result, County Exec Stoffa refused to submit Garvin's name for reappointment next year. That's unwelcome news to council member Charles Dertinger, who groused about it at last night's county council meeting. "Mr. Garvin seems to have been removed for expressing his First Amendment rights." Not exactly. Garvin was removed because his partisan activity created an appearance of impropriety.

Stoffa proposes a clean sweep of the elections commission, with one exception. He wants to reappoint Republican Joan Rosenthal. Dertinger has a series of objections to her, including her outspoken criticism of the elections office. I guess she should be removed for expressing her First Amendment rights, too.

Of course, Dertinger is really just trying to get back at Stoffa for removing Garvin. But he's still right. As it turns out, Ms. Rosenthal is a member of Hanover Township's zoning hearing board. The Home Rule Charter excludes anyone who holds "public office" from sitting on the elections commission. Although a zoning hearing board member is appointed, as opposed to elected, she still holds a public office. Her appointment, therefore, seems inconsistent with the letter of the Home Rule Charter.

Council has tabled Rosenthal's appointment so that Solicitor Zito can research this matter. Whatever he decides, Rosenthal should withdraw her name from consideration. She's dedicated, interesting and very elegant. But after last year's controversy, neither the elections commission nor its members can afford to become mired in political squabbles.

I'm sure there's one Republican out there that Dertinger likes. How about Tommy Scissorhands?

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