Sunday, June 24, 2012

Hazleton City Council Meeting 6-20-2012

At the last Hazleton City Council meeting on 6-20-2012 there was an exchange between Hazleton Council persons over the duties of the Hazleton City Clerk.  In this video you can hear Councilwoman Karin Cabell trying to desparately explain the difference between requests of Hazleton City information and requests of non-city information to Councilwoman Jean Mope and Councilman Jack Mundie.  Mope and Mundie are of the belief that the City Clerk is a council employee.  In fact that is not the case.  Mistakenly the position is called the Council Clerk. 

Nowhere in the Third Class City Code of Pennsylvania or the Home Rule and Optional Plan Government Law will one find the position of Council Clerk.  The position is named the "City Clerk."

Home Rule Optional Plan A language(Hazleton chose Option Plan B but the language found in A applies to B except that the Department of Administration is optional under A but mandatory under B).
§ 3009. Appointment and duties of municipal clerk or secretary.A municipal clerk or secretary shall be appointed in the manner set forth in the administrative ordinance as provided pursuant to section 3146 (relating to passage of administrative ordinance). The municipal clerk or secretary shall serve as clerk of the council, keep its minutes and records of its proceedings, maintain and compile its ordinances and resolutions as this subpart requires and perform such functions as may be required by law or by local ordinance. The municipal clerk shall, prior to the appointment, have been qualified by training or experience to perform the duties of the office.

Third Class City Code

Section 1301. Appointment; Compensation; Removal.--The council of each city shall appoint a city clerk on the first Monday of May, one thousand nine hundred and fifty-two, and on the first Monday of May every fourth year thereafter, and fix his compensation by ordinance. He shall serve for a term of four years and until his successor is duly appointed and qualified.

Section 1302. Power to Administer Oaths; Duties.--The city clerk shall have the power of a notary public to administer oaths in any matter pertaining to the business of said city, or in any legal proceeding in which it is interested. He shall also perform such other duties as shall be prescribed for his office by law, ordinance or resolution of council.

Section 1303. Records Open to Inspection.--The records and
documents of city council of every city shall be kept in the
office of the city clerk and shall be open to the inspection of
any taxpayer thereof, his, her, or its agent, upon demand
therefor during office hours.

It appears Councilwoman Mope forgets that Hazleton operates under Option Plan B as she constantly refers to the Third Class City Code which only applies if there is no direction under Option Plan B law.

The City Clerk is the clerk of council but not the Council Clerk.  How can a part time council have daily control over a full time employee?  Further Mope and Mundie believe they can unilaterally direct the City Clerk to perform research for their personal use not directly related to Hazleton City records.  With the convictions in Bonusgate, Computergate, and former Senator Jane Orie one would think both Mr. Mundie and Ms. Mope would be more careful about instructing city employees to perform personal work on city time.

Ms. Mope erroneously states "It's her job" referring to the clerk. As the law states, and it is quite clear, it would take an ordinance to mandate such a practice.  Even then the state Ethics Act would come into play.  Using one's position for private pecuniary gain, in this case using taxpayer resources to pay for private work to avoid paying another, could come under ethics review.

§ 1103. Restricted activities

(a) Conflict of interest.--No public official or public employee shall engage in conduct that constitutes a conflict of interest.

"Conflict" or "conflict of interest." Use by a public official or public employee of the authority of his office or employment or any confidential information received through his holding public office or employment for the private pecuniary benefit of himself, a member of his immediate family or a business with which he or a member of his immediate family is associated. The term does not include an action having a de minimis economic impact or which affects to the same degree a class consisting of the general public or a subclass consisting of an industry, occupation or other group which includes the public official or public employee, a member of his immediate family or a business with which he or a member of his immediate family is associated.

The job description of the City Clerk, obtained by SOP dated 06/89, states that the person's "Work is generally supervised by administrative superiors."  Therefore it appears their assumption that the City Clerk works at the beckon call of council is preposterous.  Nowhere in the job description does it mandate that the clerk is under the direct control of any Hazleton City Council member.  It appears the clerk position falls under the daily control of the administration, not City Council.

Council members should read the job description before stating "It's her job..What part don't you understand?"  It is clearly Mope who doesn't understand the law and appears to be learning on the job.  In previous meetings Ms. Mope said that council must follow the law but it appears that is only a one-way street.

Mope makes the assertion that directing the clerk to make personal Right To Know requests doesn't cost council money.  Evidently Ms. Mope never was an employer otherwise she would know that the salary, benefits, heat, light, electricity, telephone line charges, etc. all cost the Hazleton taxpayer money.

Mundie also makes the claim it is her job "to get information to help us do our job."  That would be correct if it was Hazleton City information but not NON-CITY information that must be researched then printed out using city equipment.  It should be noted that the request Mr. Mundie made required 1,000 pages of printing. He supplied the paper but forgot the cost of the printer, the electricity to run it, and the ink cartridge costs as well as wear and tear.

Neither understands the need to take employment matters into executive session.  The Sunshine Act specifically makes provisions for executive sessions to discuss personnel matters.  Discussing personnel matters in public can, in many instances, violate the privacy of the employee. 

Both feign that the majority on Hazleton City Council are trying to restrict the public and their access to information.  Pennsylvania law prevents that from being even a remote possibility.  They are using the council chambers as their stage for theatrics designed to inflame the publc because they have no real agenda but obstruction. Their indecorous display rings loudly through the obstreperousness of their comments. Hopefully with time the taxpayers will get what they paid for, not a theatre production.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Do more research and realize it was Evelyn Graham that insisted on a title change