The Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley(CACLV), led by Alan Jennings, has its genesis in LBJ's 1964 War on Poverty. It is a community action program designed to empower the poor in low-income communities. Jennings will be the first to admit he's losing the war. He keeps on fighting, but he now has an unlikely enemy - Northampton County Council.
His problem with Northampton County Council started when he decided to hire Ross Marcus last September. At that time, Marcus was County Director of Human Services. This hire was a technical breach of contractual language preventing Jennings from hiring a County employee for a year after he leaves government.
Northampton County has what is called a "revolving door ordinance." It's designed to prevent County employees from negotiating big contracts with a major vendor, and then going to work for it. It has happened. Many years ago, a fiscal officer convinced the County to switch pension advisers, after which he went to work for the selected firm. Similarly, a former public works director resigned for a job with an engineering firm that he recommended repeatedly for County work. The danger here is that the public employee will subordinate the best interests of the County to his own pecuniary interest.
But in the case of CACLV, the area's major poverty fighting organization, contracts for County services existed long before Marcus worked there.So Executive John Stoffa characterized the breach as "technical". He reasoned that the evil at which the ordinance is aimed, did not exist. To be safe, he and CACLV's Alan Jennings executed amendments to county contracts under which CACLV agreed that Marcus, its new hire, would perform no role in the negotiation or execution of any county contracts for a period of one year.
That wasn't enough to satisfy County Council. They enacted changes to the Administrative Code that would prohibit any County employee from serving on boards of any organization that does business with the County. This directly impacted CACLV, whose board included two County employees. Council member Lamont McClure told Jennings, "[Y]ou understood what the law in Northampton County was, but due to your leverage, you chose to hire Mr. Marcus anyway."
Jennings just received a new proposal to provide food assistance to the needy in Northampton County. He is asking that the service be bid., and made his intentions known in a January 2 email to Executive John Stoffa.
"In light of Council’s vociferous objections to CACLV hiring former human services director Ross Marcus, including vocal, public criticism of the agency that questioned my integrity and that of the agency, I would respectfully decline to execute the contract without a formal bidding process."