What stuck White is Brown's "bizarre determination to do so many things the wrong way." In addition to using taxpayer dollars to hire a public relations consultant who seemed to excel only in getting him into more trouble, he did goofy things like barring a Council member and Baron from a routine news conference, then posting armed guards at a subsequent news event to keep Council members from crashing it. He has saved money by allowing vacancies to pile up, stretching the County to its breaking point. He unilaterally reduced health benefits of a workforce whose income was already going in reverse, thanks to an unpopular Easton commuter tax. He has also been alternatively petulant and arrogant in some of his exchanges with Council.
His biggest problem is his lack of transparency. He has failed to respond to emails or phone calls, and that attitude has been passed along to some members of his cabinet like Luis Campos. This unwillingness to communicate has extended to members of Council and the Controller.
Things came to a head over secret raises he has handed out without seeking the required clearance from Council. This is completely contrary to the merit pay system in place, something that former Executive Gerald "Jerry" Seyfried explained in a rare appearance at council's request. When fellow Hall of Famer Steve Barron found out what was going on, Brown circled the wagons. Finally, after several more weeks, Council demanded he justify these raises by June 17 or face the consequences in court. Unanimously. Though the amount in dispute is minimal, Council's power to set wages was being assaulted along with the merit pay system in place that encourages professionalism, and not cronyism, in the workforce.
Though Brown did ultimately release this information, it was accompanied by a "lawyer letter from his Solicitor, Ryan Durkin, adding fuel to the fire. That letter reserved "all of the Executive's past, present and future rights, claims and defenses in the ongoing disagreement" and contained other language that is routine in the legal arena, but made Council members even more angry.
On June 17, when this matter came to Ken Kraft's Personnel Committee, he decided to forward the entire matter to the full Council without discussion. The stage was set for anything, from the suspension of these raises to a vote that would simply abolish all the positions.
But nothing happened. The matter was tabled by an 8-1 vote with only Seth Vaughn voting No because he was concerned about innocent employees being stuck in limbo. Council is willing to work with the Executive because instead of coming out with guns blazing and corporate babble, he did something different.
What had started out as a bad day was ending as a good one. For perhaps the first time, Brown looked and acted like an Executive instead of some mid-level manager from the corporate world. It was his first good speech, delivered without the usual corporate babble.
He conceded that all parties, including Council, "were and are acting in good faith." Instead of slamming prior administrations, he agreed with former Executive Seyfried's remarks that "one branch of government suing another to resolve differences of opinion is a waste of time, money and only hurts Northampton County."
He reflected on how he would feel if h
e were a Council member. "Standing in Council's shoes, reviewing not only the authorizing documents guiding the County but also the specific actions taken and the lack of communication with and inclusion of Council in those activities, it is absolutely reasonable Council would conclude I was trying to circumvent the County's guidelines, usurp Council's authority and be offended."
He then publicly apologized for any offenses his action may have caused, and told Council, "I have voluntarily agreed to not authorize any additional salary adjustments without bringing the matter before Council until a formal resolution of the matter can be achieved."
He also apologized to the 14 employees who received payraises "for any public and private upset caused," calling them "innocents" who "had nothing to do wit my decision to authorize the salary adjustments without bringing the matter before Council." He also apologized to Cathy Allen, his Deputy Director of Administration, referring to her as a "surrogate target of Council's frustration from my lack of understanding and consideration of Council's need and concerns." And in case they missed it the first or second time, he apologized to Council again.
Scott Parsons, who has repeatedly asked for more transparency from Brown, immediately thanked him. Even Lamont McClure and Ken Kraft, Brown's harshest critics on Council, seemed willing to give peace a chance.
At least a ceasefire.
* My own induction was a travesty..Ron Angle and John Stoffa, my supposed friends, either bribed or threatened White into naming me. I have sworn revenge, and horns are now growing out of Stoffa's head. Angle already had them.