Monday, December 13, 2021

NorCo Council Overrides McClure Vetoes Regarding Budget and Salaries of Elected Officials

At their December 2 meeting, Northampton County Council adopted a budget for next year. In doing so, Council amended the budget to increase its own funding to $400,000 so it could pay for a study of IT, Gracedale and salaries. It also increased the salaries of both the Elections Registrar and her Deputy. Separately, Council approved a payraise for future elected officials. On December 9, Executive Lamont McClure vetoed both Council's budget amendments as well as the payhike for future elected officials. The very next day, at their final meeting of the year, County Council voted to override McClure's vetoes. 

County Council beefed up its own spending fund by taking $100,000 from the IT budget as well as $150,000 from the County's stabilization fund. 

In his veto message, McClure argued that reducing the IT budget by $100,000 "leaves us vulnerable to cyberattacks" and limits the county's ability to get computer components in the midst of a pandemic that has caused supply chain issues. He also argues that the County Council lacks the authority to conduct its own IT study.  He adds that Council is violating its own ordinance by "raiding" its own financial stabilization fund. 

He argues against increasing the Registrar's salary as well. He notes that she was hired at $67,593 precisely because of the increased responsibilities brought about by changes to the Election Code. After three years of county employment, her salary will be $76,028. He believes this is unfair to the Clerk of Civil, who is paid $72,461 with 33 years of service. He adds it ia also unfair to the Clerk of Criminal, who is paid $69,340 after 30 years of service. 

In addition to his budget-related vetoes, McClure also returned the ordinance raising the salary of future elected officials. He argues that "[p]ublic service implies some sacrifice." He noted that his $85,000 salary is higher than the $81,000 median family income in Pa. He adds that, once Execs attain age 60, they can collect a $2,500 monthly pension.   

Interestingly, McClure waited until right before the meeting to deliver his veto. This prompted Administrator Charles Dertinger to inform Council that any action on the veto would have to be advertised 24 hours in advance under recent changes to the Sunshine Act.

What Dertinger failed to tell Council is that they may still consider matters that was only brought to their attention within 24 hours of the meeting.  

County Council Solicitor Chris Spadoni informed County Council that they had the authority to vote to override the Executive veto. "I could not be more clear," he said in responses to objections by Dertinger and Council member Tara Zrinski, neither of whom attended law school. 

County Council voted to override McClure's veto by a 8-1 vote. Tara Zrinski was the sole Council member who voted against overriding the veto. 

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Dick move by McClure, not sure that will make his life easy with council. What does he have on Zirinski. She is in the bag for the guy in most of your posts.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I have no problem with his vetoes, although I disagree with them all. I do think that waiting until the 11th hour to deliver them to County Council was petty and mean-spirited. It was designed to force Council to schedule another meeting. It is ridiculous for him to argue that the County Council lacks the authority to look into the IT department, especially since its performance has been subpar. The only part of his veto messages that resonate is his claim about the Registar getting too much compared to other row officers. To me, that only indicates they are underpaid as are most county workers.

Anonymous said...

What McClure and Dertinger did was in violation of the Home Rule Charter which clearly states "The County Executive must notify the County Council in writing within even (7) Days after the adoption of the budget by County Council of the veto and the reasons for it." More than seven days passed from when the County Executive exercised the veto option granted him by the Charter. Council should just have ignored Dertinger's request.

Bernie O'Hare said...

McClure’s vetoes were issued seven days after the budget and salary ordinance.

Anonymous said...

We elected a slick lawyer. We should not be surprised when he attempts slick lawyerly maneuvers. Expect more hubris.

Anonymous said...

Lamont and chuck talk out of all sides of their mouths. Worried about how it looks for other employees and their salaries. Wasn't saying that when his buddy Ken Kraft was up there getting a step after only a couple years. Hell all of council laughed as they vetoed , yes of course. And worried about how it feels to have years in and not getting paid . Look around the county . 16 years on step 6 , 10 years on step 3 of the payscale, 5 years on step 1. So please stop talking out of both sides of your mouth. This is just pondering to look like he cares. If he cared that much about the veto he would have stood up their a fought for it. Once again not everyone in this county is that foolish.

Bernie O'Hare said...

There are so many loopholes in the Sunshine Act you can drive a Mack truck through it. He now has a 5-4 council and cannot afford to play games if he wants to get things done. But it is natural that the Exec and Legislative branches will have differing opinions of the extent of their authority. The Exec is very powerful under the HRC, but County Council can be even more powerful when it flexes its muscle.

Anonymous said...

County execs have played this game with councils/ commissioners for year . Like a good cop bad cop but they get what they want and then blame council. I've witnessed it first hand. It's all about the spin. They actually plan it that way

Anonymous said...

I've been following this, just like most of the County employees I'm sure, and I gotta say it makes McClure and Zrinski look pretty damn bad. Their argument is essentially that if we pay employee A what they deserve, then employee X, Y & Z are going to expect that too, and we certainly can't go around paying EVERYONE what they deserve! THE HORROR! What a novel concept. Paying people what they deserve. It's pretty stupid for two democrats who rely on tens of thousands of dollars in political donations from labor unions to admit very publicly that workers shouldn't get paid appropriately for the quality and quantity of the work they do. Apparently exploiting the county workforce is how McClure gave Northampton residents their embarrassing and laughable tax-cut.... was it worth it? No wonder he doesn't want a pay study! Gracedale is a disaster, employees are miserable, overworked, and underpaid, and McClure is trying to distract people by villainizing hard-working employees for getting paid what they deserve. Truly pathetic. In your previous article you mentioned the Deputy registrar's raise put her at a step 8. It's funny that he failed to mention the fact that the deputy registrar has been here for almost 30 years too and still isn't at the top of her pay grade! What's the real issue here? The fact that they got a raise, or the fact there are so many employees in the county that deserve one too and the administration refuses to do anything about it. And speaking of pay grade, are all the salaries that were compared in his explanation of the same pay grade? We know he likes to group benefits into hourly wage so do you really think he's being transparent here? doubtful. Bottom line is that council is finally pushing back and it is pretty fucking refreshing to watch. Keep up the pressure! And Zrinski should be careful because when you carry a POS's water, it will end up contaminated, I thought she was against that kind of thing??

Bernie O'Hare said...

He does mention the Deputy Registrar and states the following: 1) She is entitled to OT; 2) She has received 8 step increases, and County Council's action makes it 10.

As far as I am concerned, she is worth every penny and her $57k salary is still too low for what she does.

I know some workers are upset bc they were overlooked. If nonunion, they could have appealed to County Council. I think most people are underpaid. This is why we need a pay study.

Ironically, what we need even more is a study of Gracedale. I refuse to buy into claims made by disgruntled ex employees right before an election. But facts are facts. The census is dangerously low and a one-star rating is simply inexcusable. After four years, McClure owns that rating and needs to solve what really is the county's biggest headache.

Anonymous said...

Keeping Gracedale didn't work and seniors are paying the price. It's time to revisit selling. The economics of reimbursements dictated that we were always going to arrive at this point. Denial can no longer be the county's strategy in looking after what campaigning politicians disingenuously call, "our most precious asset." Their words are impressive. Their deeds and results are disgraceful.

Anonymous said...

I will say it again Lehigh county did it right and planned for the future. Northampton county never did. Lehigh county started in early 2000.....made a plan for the future and now have independent living on site and building a new building! Shame on Northampton county. The reason we are here at Gracedale is no plan for future poor county oversight and now bad management

Anonymous said...

The guy is not just a prick he is a hypocrite. He has handed out steps piecemeal to his buddies over th years when other employees didn't get them. If that failed, he reclassified their jobs as a backdoor raise. His disrespect for the Council is not new is well known and he has shown it and talked about it for four years.

Not surprising from this guy and his crew.

Anonymous said...

Exactly. Our county has proven for decades that it can't manage this responsibility. We are not Lehigh. We never will be. Time to sell. It's for our seniors.