When John Brown first took office in January, it all started innocently enough. He said he was "here to serve." In March, he called the County workforce its most important asset.
But his secretive nature, combined with a distrust for anyone outside of a small circle that includes Cathy Allen and Matt Deibert, has resulted in a year of disaster.
The low point for his administration came in October, when he posted armed guards outside of a news conference to keep Council members at bay. Even Peg Ferraro, who is usually fairly laid back, condemned Brown.
"[T]o have the Sheriff's Deputies stand - armed Sheriff's Deputies - standing guard at the door between a Council Chamber and the County Executive Chamber, to me, is absolutely appalling and sends completely the wrong message to the elected officials that sit up here on this dais with me."named a voice over artist to play the role as his Director of Community and Economic Development. He wanted to name a recently elected Republican judge's husband as chief Public Defender, even though it would effectively prevent that judge from hearing criminal cases. But his goofiest nomination was Cathy Allen for Director of Administration. She's a high school grad whose experience was limited to managing a two-person office.
His penchant for government by consultant has even drawn the ire of conservative Elmer Gates, who said Brown should "roll up his sleeves and start doing the job we elected him to do." In February, Brown proposed a $715,200 no-bid contract for a business consultant. Though some of the newbie Republicans on Council were more than ready to give Brown what he wanted, Hayden Phillips was concerned. "I like to shop," was Peg Ferraro's assessment. His initial attempt at government by consultant failed.
$84,000 public relations consultant. That ultimately spawned two Controller lawsuits, which were withdrawn once Brown followed the RFP process, under which he seeks proposals from several vendors.
His public relations consultant is best known for her "Dear Leader" news letter, in which she said we should all thank John Brown for allowing a Hispanic Center to conduct a food drive at the courthouse when previous administrations said No. In addition to being insulting, this newsletter was also wrong.
But his biggest error has been his treatment of County workers.Instead of treating them like the county's most valuable asset, he has attempted to balance the budget on their backs.He has created staffing shortages that have union officials worried about the safety of corrections officers at the jail. He has allowed a major backlog to develop in both the Civil and Criminal Division, where cases are no longer being indexed promptly. Vital Human Services positions in Children and Youth are going unfilled.
In addition to the shortages, brown has unilaterally decided to reduce healthcare coverage for most workers, while denying raises and proposing other cuts in benefits. This has made morale the worst it has ever been since the inception of home rule, and has led to a mass exodus of the best and brightest County workers.
On Monday morning, there was more than a brief courthouse rally that slammed Brown. There were also 500 signs planted all over the northern end of the County, from Bangor to Easton, and from Nazarerth to Easton.
Though Democrats rarely vote in any great number in off-year elections, John Brown has given them reasons to do so. The County's 2,200-person workforce translates to about 7,000 vote throughout the County. This should help Democrats who are outnumbered in the Nazareth, Easton and Slate Belt races It should definitely help the Controller, And it will hurt Vic Scomillio. He and all Republicans will be tied to every illegal action taken by brown, and there are a few, in his first year in office. They will all be painted as lacking transparency. They will all be painted as promoting a heartless government that sacrifices both services and fair treatment in the name of the Almighty Dollar.
Nobody has announced. No one is circulating petitions. But the County races have started.