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Friday, July 07, 2017

NorCo Council Rejects Chance For More Contract Oversight

Northampton County Council voted last night to reject an ordinance that would give them more authority over county contract approvals. Under current law, the Executive needs Council's approval for contracts larger than $100,000. Hayden Phillips proposed lowering that threshold to $25,000. Only he and Matt Dietz voted Yes.

Executive John Brown was absent, but Solicitor Ryan Durkin read into the record a memo from purchasing manager Kathryn Anderson. She complained that requiring Council approval for contracts under $100,000 "will negatively impact the contracting process" and cause delays.

Ken Kraft called the ordinance, one for which he voted in 2015, a "ridiculous overreach by county council. "We're not here to micromanage everything that happens," he said, and then slammed sponsor Hayden Phillips with the snark that this "always seems to come up during an election year."

Hayden Phillips is seeking re-election this year.  But he had no campaign in 2015, when he proposed a nearly identical ordinance. His first attempt to impose a check on the Executive's power passed by a 7-2 vote. The sole Nays came from Glenn Geissinger and Mat Benol, who usually can be counted on to support Brown.no campaign when he first proposed this ordinance in 2015.

Brown vetoed the ordinance because it would "restrict the ability of the current and future administrations of Northampton County [to enter contracts] in a timely and cost effective way." A subsequent attempt to override Brown's veto failed by a five to four vote, with Peg Ferraro, Seth Vaughn, Mat Benol and Glenn Geissinger voting No.

In 2015, Vaughn lauded the measure as one that would give Council "more oversight. ... I just think it's better government," he explained. But a few days later, he voted against himself. So did Peg Ferraro.

Lamont McClure, who was then on Council, chided Ferraro. "Two weeks ago, you and Mr. Vaughn show courage and vote with Mr. Phillips, and tonight, you and Mr. Vaughn show the opposite of that. A lack of courage."

In 2017, Vaughn now thinks the measure he endorsed in 2015 would "hamstring the Executive" and result in more meetings, which he religiously tries to avoid. In 2017, Peg Ferraro thinks the bill she supported in 2015 "would almost bring the wheels of government to a halt. The wheels of government move slowly enough."

Bob Werner, who voted the measure down, was a civilian in 2015. But he was far from enthusiastic over Executive contracts. "I'm tired of having things put in front of me with two or days notice," he complained. "The administration does not respect Council's time frames."

This is Phillips' second effort to impose greater oversight with county contracts. . "I've been on this almost since I've been here," he pointed out. "You've got me offended that you think I'm doing this for political purposes. I'm not."

Phillips argued that his bill would have no impact on cooperative purchases or what the courts think are necessary. And Matt Dietz added that Lehigh County requires commissioner approval (they are called commissioners in Lehigh) for contracts greater than $10,000.

In 2015,when Council voted 7-2 to give themselves control over contracts greater than $25,000, they did so over the protests of Purchasing Manager Kathryn Anderson, who complained it would slow things down. In 2017, a memo from her sufficed.

"You have the perspective of an employee," said resident Jeff Fox, who supplied the perspective of a citizen and said the bill would result in more transparency.

President John Cusick said he was swayed by Anderson's concerns, but cautioned everyone that something really needs to be done about the purchasing provisions in the Administrative Code.

Those concerns have been raised since 2015, too, and Controller Steve Barron even prepared an outline for Council. It has been collecting dust for about a year.


Anonymous said...

Agree that it is way to invasive. This is just an election gimmick to take people's minds off their 10% tax increase. Sad!

Ovem Lupo Commitere said...

If other counties, as well as most local municipalities and school districts, can retain legislative oversight of tax monies without "slowing down" or "hamstringing" those governments, NorCo could as well with efficient budgetary planning. Its a choice of how much ownership Council wants to have, or not. Phillips and Angle are the only two so far that I know I'll be voting for in November. I'll probably split-ticket and vote for Heckman for some Dem balance. The other GOP lost my vote over time, and the other Dems I do not know.

Anonymous said...

Hey Ovem. I'm picking Heckman, McGee and another D. And only 2 Rs this time out

Bernie O'Hare said...

Why McGee? What do you know about him other than he is a union agent like Ken? I'd like to know where he stands on issues. Of the candidates seeking re-election, only Hayden Phillips supports imposing this kind of control over county contracts. In fact, the only reason council has any authority at all is bc Angle proposed a $100,000 ordinance when he was on Council. I will be supporting Phillips. I disagree with his conservative principles, but he has a conscience and is transparent. So I agree with Ovem.

Anonymous said...

Phillips is an idiot and should be voted out of office this November.

Bernie O'Hare said...

You call him a name and provide no reason. You must be a partisan Democrat. It is thanks to idiots like you that Trump is president. Look in a mirror.

Ken Kraft said...

Well, I'm pulling straight D

Bernie O'Hare said...

You should change parties. You voted against an opportunity to exercise more control over Brown contracts. That's a good little boy. Brown will give you a cookie.

Anonymous said...

Bernie, I am an up county republican but as a disclaimer I have known Ron Heckman since he was much younger and consider him a friendly acquaintance. His dad was a lifelong republican as were his uncles, yet he was a Democrat, something I would poke at him over the years.

I would kid him because on things frorm gun ownership to taxes he sounded more like a republican than a democrat. I do remember that during the 911 controversy he decided to vote for a plan he didn't like because he said that 911 was more important than a plan he liked. However, after that if I am not mistaken he wrote and pushed through an ordinance that states the county executive had to notify council or get permission(don't remember which) to do contracts over a certain amount. He said he did it after the then county executive signed a 40million dollar plus contract with the 911 company without county councils knowledge.
I am sure you can ask someone who was in government at that time to clarify but I am pretty sure that is what happened.

I will continue to rib him over being a democrat but will vote for him as well as Angle still thinking on others.The 10% tax increase sticks in my throat. Won't vote for Brown again but not sure about McClure. The 10% tax increase sticks in my throat.

Anonymous said...

all republicans should vote for Glenn G.

Bernie O'Hare said...

He is a reliable rubber stamp for Brown who sure would like to run for Congress again bc he knows everything. I will not be voting for him so that he has more time to focus on his congressional race.

Anonymous said...

Most of us will push the straight republican button for honest and conservative government

Anonymous said...

Good. Maybe this time you will get another conservative 10% tax increase. Or if you are lucky they will push the 20% tax increase they wanted to begin with, That was tea party Phillips idea.lol

Rich Fegley said...

Pawlowski said the same thing, "This will slow everything down at City Hall!"

Look at where Allentown has ended up with its contracts. The FBI reviews them now.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Good point.

Anonymous said...

Hey Rich,
Tell me, where did allentown end up? still no charges on the mayor?

Anonymous said...

Northampton County doesn't need additional safeguards to protect the public from the Executive's abuse of signing contracts. Simply enforce what you have in the Home Rule Charter or the Administrative Code.
Next, create a special Blue Ribbon Committee of someone from outside this administration and council to review the administrative code and Charter to change any shortcomings in the bidding process.
The Executive abuses and this Council excuses.
Sad, really sad.

Anonymous said...

how about we get rid of home rule charter and go back to a three commission type of government? Home rule is a experiment that has run its course and is a complete failure.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Northampton County doesn't need additional safeguards to protect the public from the Executive's abuse of signing contracts."

False. In his first year in office, Brown executed a contract to use your money to pay for a propaganda firm to try to give him good press. Because he kept it under $100k, he needed no council approval. Now he has executed a contract to have some firm design a new prison, without knowing where it is or whether it is wanted or needed.

A Council interested in providing oversight would want control over contracts like that. You might quibble about the amount, but more oversight is definitely needed.

By a 7-2 vote, this council abdicated an opportunity to provide more oversight and transparency in local government.

When Lamont McClure refers to a corrupt local government, this is what he means.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Next, create a special Blue Ribbon Committee of someone from outside this administration and council to review the administrative code and Charter to change any shortcomings in the bidding process."

This Council is waiting for Brown to come up with something. They are too lazy to do their own job. heir job. They are the legislators, not Brown.