Monday, May 17, 2010

The Jim Haggerty Document- A Lesson

James Haggerty Times Leader Photo

Mark Guydish asks this question in his article "Can public alter home rule charter?"

The Home Rule Charter being hammered out by the Government Study Commission is either a giant step toward reforming a county government steeped in corruption or a pointless reshuffling of the deck without setting up effective checks and balances to wipe out the chronic abuse of power exposed by multiple federal corruption arrests since January 2009.

One of the contentious issues surrounds an Appointed Manager vs. an Elected Manager. The minutes of the Commission from 01/27/2010 reflect the vote of the various commission members on the subject.

Chairman Jim Haggerty instructed the Government Study Commission to make a formal vote on the Elected Executive position versus the Appointed Manager. The Appointed Manager won by a vote of seven ayes. There were four votes for an Elected Executive by Jeffrey Niemiec, Christopher Kersey, Richard Morelli, and Charmaine Maynard.

From Mark Guydish's article:
Government Study Commission member Charmaine Maynard tried to placate those who raised doubts by saying the current version of the charter is “a rough draft,” but Haggerty disagreed with the characterization.

With an 11-member commission hammering out everything from major elements to verbal minutes at weekly meetings, he said some of the larger issues – including the council-manager format – are all but final if they were approved by a 7-4 vote on the commission.

It appears that Commission Chairman James Haggerty has essential control over this document. It is SOP's opinion that he wants it to be "final" because it suits his aspirations. He tries to counter criticism over the appointed manager.

Haggerty countered that no system is perfect, and that voters should ask themselves if the proposed charter is better than the current system. He insisted it is, largely because it dilutes the political clout of individuals by having 11 council members instead of three commissioners, and explicitly bars council from meddling in the day-to-day management of the county.

The question Haggerty has to ask himself is whether poliitical clout on the Luzerne County Government Study Commission is diluted or concentrated.
If Mr. Haggerty has aspirations to become the "appointed manager" if this current version is passed by the voters he should make that aspiration public.

Hazleton Councilman Joseph Yannuzzi made the argument to the Commission that at least some council members should be elected by districts. Haggerty dismisses those efforts to elect county council members by district because that would interfere with any plan to become manager. He effectively has not just diluted but drowned out the voice of residents in Southern Luzerne County would have concerning the governing body taxing them. His draft can concentrate "Political clout" in northern Luzerne County which would allow him to obtain the seat as appointed manager.

Yannuzzi was trying to impress upon the Commission that the government he presently represents is a model for the county. Hazleton's form of government, while not a Home Rule charter, contains a legislative branch, city council, and an administrative arm, the Mayor. All office holders are elected and it seems to work fine. It is suspect that Haggerty is quick to dismiss this model in favor of the Jim Haggerty document.

Haggerty's comparision of Democrats and Republicans on the present form of commissioner government doesn't hold water. Given the voter registration makeup of Luzerne County Republicans will always have a very hard time controlling the county council. It was the Democrats who have been ensnared in the biggest corruption scandal in Luzerne County's history.

Allowing election by district can make the reason for seeking the office not one of control by party but by interest of the people the office holder will represent. Allowing election of the Manager, similar to Allegheny County, will eliminate auspicious control by council members over the manger.

James Haggerty needs to be told this document is not the Jim Haggerty document but the reform so sorely needed for this county. If he truly wants to counter claims it is his document he should accept this challenge. Mr. Haggerty are you willing to sign a pledge not to seek the position of appointed manager for the next 10 years, no exceptions? Let's see where his allegiance truly lies.

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