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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Stoffa Should Make a Clean Sweep of the Elections Commission

"It's what I anticipated. Frankly I wouldn't have submitted her name if I didn't think she would be qualified to serve."

That's how Northampton County Executive John Stoffa reacted upon hearing there is no conflict in Joan Rosenthal simultaneously serving on both the Northampton County Elections Commission and Hanover Township Zoning Hearing Board. The Express Times' Sarah Cassi told us that yesterday.

Northampton County's Home Rule Charter does prohibit public office holders from sitting on the elections commission. But Council Solicitor Zito says there is no conflict between the two offices. And that's no surprise. He has previously interpreted the Charter's prohibition on holding dual offices as unconstitutional, and is undoubtedly right.

His opinion is a green light for Ms. Rosenthal, an exceptionally qualified and well-spoken elections commissioner. But so were at least four other elections commission members. Stoffa brushed them aside in what was supposed to be a clean sweep of the elections commission.

Now it's a clean sweep of everyone but Rosenthal. Why? Council member Charles Dertinger is clearly uncomfortable with her. At last week's council meeting, he claimed to have a "series of objections." Chief among these is his belief that she is unfair. This is probably based on her participation in last year's review of the elections office, characterized by Dertinger and others as a "witch hunt."

Dertinger, who attended only a portion of one of these sessions, is mistaken. Ms. Rosenthal was highly critical of some aspects of that office, but was equally complimentary in many other respects. Dertinger missed that, but there's no point in arguing that with him now. The best way to persuade both sides that you really, really, really want to be fair is by replacing every stinkin' commission member. Dertinger can probably persuade McClure and Neiper to go along with a "No" vote. And if this is perceived as a Democrat-Republican battle, Stoffa will lose. And for what?

Stoffa will be better off if he follows his initial instincts and cleans house. That will remove any lingering doubts, justified or not, from either side.

After all, Stoffa needs a willing council a hell of a lot more than he needs Ms. Rosenthal.


Anonymous said...

Stoffa is stubborn and someone wants himn to keep her on. He should clean house but he won't. Zito's opinion not withstanding. He is doing this to poke a stick in council Dem's eye. When they balk the press and these blogs have his back. He is one of the best Pol's to come down the road in years.
Bravo Mr. S, well played, I salute you!

Lady Rep said...

Hmmm! The Democrats on County Council replaced a Republican seat with one of their own, and now they object to Stoffa retaining someone on the Election Commission who was actually an objective, public-minded individual. I don't see one action here that has ANYTHING to do with good public service. This only confirms my perceptions of how they operate.

Also, I really don't see why someone who is good at her position needs to be part of a clean sweep if she is truly serving the voters well. So what if it doesn't make a neat package? Let's do what's actually good for the public.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Lady Rep,

I disagree, as much as I admire Ms. Rosenthal. At this time last year, many of us were ranting about elections chair Walt Garvin, whom I feel was too partial. Many Dems disagreed.

In addition, there were numerous problems in the elections office. A citizen advisory panel had to be formed to go over problems with voting machines and a very defensive registrar.

Many Dems, rightly or wrongly, feel that Ms. Rosenthal was too harsh in the way she publicly admonished the registrar. Although Ms. Rosenthal was also very complimentary in other respects, some Dems were upset.

Stoffa originally stated he would make a clean sweep of that commission, and that includes some fine folks like Ralph Stampone, who did a good job. But then he apparently changed his mind.

To prevent anyone from getting the idea that the commission was going to be political, Stoffa should have made that clean sweep. Now he has Democrats thinking that he's trying to stick it to them. That's not necessary. There are plenty of other qualified Republicans who can serve in Joan's place, and Stoffa can find her another position on another board so that her talents can still be used by the county.

I see no reason to ram her down council's throat. Yes, Dertinger has given Stoffa every reason to want to stick it to him. But he is also an elected member of council, and he has voiced concerns about fairness. I don't want anyone to get the wrong feeling about the elections commission. If his fellow Dems agree, Ms. Rosenthal will be needlessly embarrassed.

What's best for the public is a clean sweep.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 12:57,

Stoffa is the least political person I've ever seen in public office. The political thing to do here is work with Dertinger, and even I'm advocating that. But he marches to his own drummer. It's hard for most pols to understand because he does not think like them. But he does think. More often than not, his decisions turn out to be right.

To avoid any question of partiality, I'd dump Rosenthal.

Anonymous said...

I though the idea of a "clean sweep" was to clean out those who were not doing their job or were being too partisan on this board that should be looking out for the voters of the county...why should Stoffa get rid of someone who is doing her job objectively and looking out for the voters...

Anonymous said...

So if Stoffa does what he wants he is stubborn, he is non-political. Yet he amazingly seems to consistently triangulate himself to come out as the political winner.
I know you will say I am biased but so are you. This guy is a pol and his masterful manuvers from working the press to neutering Angle are examples of a pro.
Or as you believe just an unbelievably honest guy who good people love and political malcontents despise,
Now that is objectivity.

not so casual observer said...

I think that Stoffa is an honest guy and a gentlemen and I believe the same about Joan Rosenthal. They work for good government,period! Rosenthal's harsh comments about Voter Registration are 100% justified. They are inept beyond anything I have ever seen before. Even Dick Benner, retired Registrar, agrees with Rosenthal on that one.
Dertinger and his cronies want her gone to protect a fellow dem who plays their game, but is the seat of the ineptitude.
Zito's decision was correct, and with a 3 to 2 vote on the board favoring the dems, there is little harm for leaving Rssenthal intact. She brings a great deal of knowledge to the fledgeling board and bipartisan honesty to the process.

county worker said...

She railed about the voter office at the "witch hunt" and as a member of that board, it is her responsibility to correct any deficiencies. She didn't do her job. Stoffa should get rid of her as he did Garvin, to make the clean sweep, as he will be maikng more clean sweeps thruout the county.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 2:01, No a "clean sweep" means everyone.- starting fresh.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 3:23,

Of course I'm biased. We all are. And Stoffa is the least political person in office that I've ever seen. Not too many people get elected by promising to raise taxes. Stoffa did.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Not so casual,

Ms. Rosenthal is an exceptional lady. If she remains on that commission, I'm sure she will continue to be an asset.

When you point out, "Dertinger and his cronies want her gone to protect a fellow Dem ...", you reveal exactly why she needs to go. Views about that office have polarized. Dertinger is no pal of mine, but isn't it possible that he is concerned about fairness, too? Doesn't your own view reveal that you certainly think that the office iteself is still slanted in favor of Dems?

I really think it's best to install a new commission.

Bernie O'Hare said...

County worker,

Ms. Rosenthall's participation in the citizen advisory panel is evidence that she was doing her job. It showed she did care. Garvin was there, too. He obviously cared, too. That "witch hunt" was there to determine how we could do a better job of conducting elections. As a result of that "witch hunt," we learned we had voted with machines that had not been certified by the state. Not bad for a witch hunt.

But I would replace everyone if I were King.

Hanover girl said...

she campaigned for candidates in hanover twsp. on election day. isn't that a violation of trust for the election board? i heard her telling people who to vote for.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Hanover Girl,

The elections commission, as Zito explains it, is a quasijudicial body. Its members really should refrain from political activity, just like judges. Some sort of code should be adopted to make this clear.

Anonymous said...

Bernie, you've lost your distinction of the forest from the trees when it comes to Stoffa's political acumen.

Being the "least political person you've ever seen..." doesn't make him apolitical - or a bad guy. Political lightweights don't get to where he's gotten, especially amid an opposition that contains many from his own party.

He might be a good guy, but this isn't Jimmy Stewart and Stoffa's not Mr. Smith. He's one of the shrewdest political operators this county has seen in years. I find it amusing that you recoil at this or similar characterizations.

He's smooth, but as Jerry Seinfeld said repeatedly, "not that there's anything wrong with that."

Anonymous said...

she campaigned for candidates in hanover twsp. on election day. isn't that a violation of trust for the election board?

I heard she even voted too! For shame!


Rightous either side said...

"she campaigned for candidates in hanover twsp. on election day. isn't that a violation of trust for the election board?

I heard she even voted too! For shame!

OK, know I am puzzled by your post - yes, it is absolutely a violation and everyone was chastised for the same activity. ??? What the hell - double standard? I commend you Bernie - right is right. She (Rosenthal) said queen registrar should be non-bias; Wally G had his underwear hung on a flagpole for it. What makes her any different? She is appointed by the same supervisors she could be campaigning for – personal agenda – hell yes. She wants to stay there and CONTROL what gets past through that damn zoning board. If Stoffa does not want to do what is right Rosenthal needs to relinquish her zoning position. On the other hand, am I crazy with my thinking? Yo Bern - my man?

Bernie O'Hare said...

Rightous either side,

If you find yourself agreeing with me, you're obviously nuts. But you say it so well. I like Joan Rosenthal, and consider her a class act. But if we are trying to take the policis out of the elections commission, she needs to go. If we want to follow the letter of the home rule charter, she needs to go. If ywe want to follow the reommendation of the citizens' advisory panel, she needs to go.

river said...

I must say about the pic that is the cutest cleanup crew I ever saw :)