|NorCo Council member Bob Werner|
Last week, Northampton County Council member Bob Werner and Controller Steve Barron were accorded that honor. NorCo Executive John Brown banned these two elected officials from a news conference that only included two people, a WFMZ reporter and yours truly. They were stopped at the door even though they said they were only there to listen. The Express Times had already decided against covering the news conference itself, but it did later report the toss. Things like that don't help Brown or his claim to be transparent.
After the news conference, these guys were still sitting in the hallway. Handing them tissues, I asked them both if they could tell me what's on their mind.
In Werner's case, it's transparency. He is disturbed at Brown's increasing reluctance to provide executive reports during Council meetings, though that has been used to ambush the Exec on other matters.
"I was told to make an appointment with him," stated Werner. "It's an insult." Werner also complained that several employees are under the impression they are unable to speak with him directly. He added that Budget Administrator Doran J. Hamann, who knows more about the County's finances than anyone, was never even told about brown's news conference, announcing his new budget. Nor was the new Fiscal Affairs Director, until he got an email from Director of Administration Luis Campos, suggesting that they carpool.
Getting to specifics, Werner made these points:
Gutted Open Space: "I think that's ridiculous. It's going the wrong way."
Brown's $3 Million Table Games Slush Fund: "We have to see what we can do about moving it somewhere else." Though Werner represents the Easton District, he states he was never informed about the trolley grant for Easton Mayor Sal Panto.
Public Relations Consultant: "We will cut it out of the budget."
Reduced health benefits: "We're going to have to use the budget as a tool to make him listen to us. ... You don't have to hurt your employees."
Budget: Brown wanted to have just two budget hearings, to minimize discussion. Werner credits Council President Peg Ferraro for insisting on the usual budget hearings. He rejects the notion of a $20 million line of credit. "It's not good government. What you have to do is work with what you have." He stated he would support a small tax hike if necessary.
What about Barron? I'll report on that tomorrow. He has concerns about the contract with costs consultant C3, the outfit that recommended reduced health benefits. I have filed a Right-to-Know for email exchanges.