|Mat Benol hangs Ten Commandments behind |
him before every meeting
Brown claimed this spending was really an attempt to build the foundation of Human Resources by providing better training to managers and supervisors in other departments. "It is the number one thing we need to do," said Brown. He said he'll be increasing the amount of money the County spends for staff development and training. He argued that the County employees themselves recognized, in a recent survey, that they need more training when named to supervisory roles.
The problem with Brown's explanation is that the $56,758.15 spent by Human Resources in 2016 is more than the $30,000 budgeted. He spent most of 2016 running for state auditor general instead of the job that the people of Northampton County elected him to do, and over much of that year, no one was at the helm. When I go into Brown's own expense reports next week, you will see yourself that there was a leadership vacuum in 2016.
It's the kind of vacuum that would enable Trapp to raid the health and wellness fund for an $800 popcorn machine she keeps in her office. The smell alone should have given that away.
Brown also failed to explain why Human Resources Director Amy Trapp has already spent over $20,000 of the $35,000 set aside this year for training and staff development in her department.
Trapp herself was unavailable. She is recovering from an automobile accident earlier this week, and hopefully makes a complete recovery.
Brown told Council he would make her available to explain these expenditures. Council President John Cusick is a big proponent of a statewide county organization called CCAP (County Comm'r Ass'n of Pa) and has for years encouraged even his fellow Council members to participate. But CCAP meets at places like Mechanicsburg, not Las Vegas or New Orleans. "The optics of that don't look particularly good," he said. Brown still justified the trips because they were highly recommended by a third-party consultant.
Hayden Phillips said that the idea of conferences and conventions is diminishing. He thinks Council might consider, as Barron suggested, a greater role in approving outside travel.
Bob Werner also is concerned because CCAP ismore locally located. He added, "There are best Western hotels."
Brown was unable to say whether the county seeks discounted rates.
Mat Benol, however, is angry that Barron had dared to question these expenses. "This type of report is nothing more than a political football," he said, calling it an "inflammatory" report.
"This is another one of those knee-jerk things that our Controller has done to try to make the Executive look bad. I'm just getting tired of it. At the next meeting, I plan on taking some action on the Controller because the Controller is a financial position, it's not a political position. To me, it's a bean counter position. I understand that this is one of the areas that technically falls to that position, but if you're going to do an objective report, you talk to both sides. You don't just grab some things and make it inflammatory and throw it out there to get the headlines. I'm tired of it. And because I'm not running for re-election, I'm politically expendable. This is just me as a Councilperson getting tired of our Controller using that position as a political pulpit."Under Northampton County's Home Rule Charter, the Controller is the person responsible for the internal control of the fiscal transactions of the county. This includes trips to Las Vegas and New Orleans. It includes department heads who exceed their spending budgets. It includes spending more money than permitted for meals. It includes the purchase of $800 popcorn machines and the abuse of the county purse to purchase gift cards that violate county credit card policy. As an independently elected official, the Controller has the power, at any time and on his own initiative, to review the fiscal transactions of any county agency without first seeking permission from John Brown or Mat Benol. That's what the Controller did, and that is his job. He has in the past found that the Executive himself was abusing his expense reports, and money had to be paid back to the County.
Now Barron is a Democrat who supports John Brown's opponent in the Executive race, Lamont McClure. Without question there are political overtones to what he is doing. But what he is doing is the job the people elected him to do. "If I really wanted to be political, I'd gather this information and just sit on it until September," said Barron. "I told Council about it now because I want to keep staff training and travel expenses in check.If I failed to disclose it now, Benol would be asking, 'Where's the Controller?'"
He's doing his job.
Benol is supposed to provide oversight of the executive branch as well. But he apparently thinks he's a cheerleader.