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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Row Officer Residency Requirement Vote is Tonight

Late last year, Northampton County Executive John Stoffa selected, as his new Register of Wills, a person with absolutely no experience in that office. She was a paralegal in the Solicitor's Office, and jumped from there to become a Deputy in the elections office. After only eleven months there, with a Presidential election looming, she abandoned ship again, this time for the Wills Office. She ostensibly got the job because she did better in the test than a long-time Deputy. But this written test measured paralegal skills, not Register of Wills skills. Her appointment was also contrary to the wishes of the court, which works with this row office. To make matters worse, this new department head did not even live in Northampton County. It was a blunder. But since that time, Northampton County Council has been trying their best to exacerbate that situation with blunders of their own.

Their first blunder, a bi-partisan one no less, was a proposal by Council members Tom Dietrich (Rep.) and Ken Kraft (Dem.) to make all row offices elected again, just like in the good ol' days. This, of course, would be a giant step backwards in good government, leading to petty little fiefdoms with independent budgets, all of them ripe for cronyism and corruption. Though he backed the proposal, McClure sensed that there was strong opposition to this measure among the remaining six Council members. So, at his suggestion, the matter was tabled and sent to his Legal and Judicial Committee, which has not bothered meeting for over three years. As you might have guessed, McClure hasn't bothered scheduling a meeting.

The second blunder is on tonight's agenda. It's a proposal to require that all row officers be residents of the County.

Northampton County row officers are ministerial. They are not decision-makers. In the Recorder of Deeds Office, for example, I can record a ham sandwich as long as it is acknowledged, properly notarized and has a tax ID number. These clerks would have to take it because they have no discretion. It doesn't matter whether they live in Easton or Emmaus.

So what public policy is served by requiring them to reside inside the County? You could argue that a person who lives here is more invested in his community and cares more. But couldn't that be said of all County workers? And in my experience, it's just not true. A strong work ethic and dedication to duty has very little to do with where someone lives. An Allentown or Phillipsburg resident might very well be a much harder worker than someone who lives just two blocks away from the courthouse.

What this proposal really does is penalize anyone who wants to be a department head. At least thirty per cent of the county workforce lives in New Jersey. This legislation tells them they can never aspire for more than a minor promotion. It also making their lives harder. It reduces their opportunities to find affordable housing, or to be close to family members who help with child-rearing and other intangibles.

If also flies in the face of regionalism. If we are really interested in promoting the Lehigh Valley, a residency requirement should include Lehigh, Warren and Monroe County.

Finally, it reduces the pool of available employees, making it more difficult to find good and qualified people.

So this proposal really has no rational basis and is actually discriminatory. It imposes a burden on some County workers that do not exist with others.

A residency requirement might make sense for first responders like emergency management, deputy sheriffs or even Children and Youth caseworkers. This is because it would reduce their response time during emergencies. But what emergency would require a Clerk of Courts to rush to the Courthouse?

But no attempt is made to impose that requirement on employees where it might actually make sense. That's because these are union positions, and would require 678,932 contract changes.

Aside from an election talking point for Lamont McClure, this proposal is bad government. Good government would entail a re-examination of the selection process for all row officers to insure professionalism over cronyism.


Anonymous said...

A very dumb idea that will handcuff recruitment efforts. Who cares where a person lives if he/she has the best qualifications for the job? Isn't this in the best interests of Norco taxpayers/citizens? People who live 20 miles away have to deadhead it every day to work at their own expense. And your point about the workforce that resides in NJ is a good one. Kraft is off his rocker on this one.

Anonymous said...

Should call this the Marty McFly rule since they went back in time to 1955 to find it.

The County's only goal is to find skilled people, regardless of where they live.

Anonymous said...

I know a way we the people can fixthis. Let us get the old gang back togetger and perition thos right on to the ballot. Let we he people decide our future. This way we can pick who we want to run our offices. Word on the street is, that os why they wont do ir. They are afraid of us and we might get rid of them because we will see that they are sotting around doing nothing. Time to take the power back.

Anonymous said...

This group of Council people are the worst officeholders we have ever had. Obviously no brains was a requirement when they ran for office. If they had any backbone, they would have immediately had an investigation into how this person got appointed Register of Wills over a first deputy with years of experience. They have subpeona powers they can use to call witneses and they did nothing. The personnel office and the full time solicitor meddled in the process. Council stayed away from the issue like the cowards they are. The full time solicitor is really to blame and the personnel director obviously went along with her to alter the way the Regisrar was picked. Council should and must look into this. They can't shun their responsiblity to make sure the personnel process remains free of meddling by outsiders and politics.

Anonymous said...

Remember Wards? Row Home's/house's?
The point behind a "Row Officer" is to have a chain-of-command in Society-on-Demand!....you lived on the block you supervised! What would be the "Response time"....with all of our "Undocumented" "Guest's"...they will be back across the river watching the Response.

Anonymous said...

@ "Anonymous said... People who live 20 miles away have to deadhead it every day to work at their own expense. 7:16 AM", Glad to know that you support "Driving While Imparement) {D.W.I.}

Anonymous said...

I swerve back-n-forth on my way to work. This is Normal. Right? Need more caffine.Red Bull....anything to prop me-up Artificially....Right??? As long as I pay your cross-border Income Taxes! You make more that way....Reciprocally.

Anonymous said...

The Hoime Rule Charter didn"t help Stoffa find the best people. His hacks are some of the worst in county history.

Anonymous said...

Could this be a Lewinski?

Anonymous said...

Actually the worst Stoffa hack is that Marcus guy. He hasn't a clue. Means he will go far in governemnt.

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