Bethlehem Press

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Council seeks to override exec veto

Thursday, November 7, 2013 by CAROL SMITH Special to the Bethlehem Press in Local News

Hoping for six votes, Northampton County Council will attempt to override a vetoed amendment that prohibits county employees from serving on boards or authorities that do business with the county.

County Executive John Stoffa vetoed the change to the county's administrative code because he views it as weakening the government's ability to keep communication lines open among these boards and authorities, and it duplicates policy already in effect.

At council's Nov. 7 meeting, council members will respond to Stoffa's veto of its recently passed ruling preventing county-paid employees from serving on boards or commissions that do business with the county for at least a year.

Councilman Lamont McClure, who last month introduced the changes to the county's employment policy regarding outside employment, supported the amendment because he wanted it clearly understood what employees can do to avoid being guilty of a breach of contract. "

"By preventing them from working with these boards or authorities we are avoiding any possibility of conflict of interest," McClure said.

In seeking to override the veto, McClure said, "The taxpayers of Northampton County are entitled to know that at all times their employees have their best interests in mind. There should be no question in the mind of the public that when they are paying employees to work for them; that there are no conflicts of interests serving other organizations. Please remember we are still only talking about a period of one year."

Stoffa vetoed the ordinance describing it as duplication of the county's outside employment policy which went into effect in 2007. The policy allows employees to have a second job or outside volunteer activity as long as these activities do not conflict with their responsibilities or impair their objectivity in making decisions regarding the public interest.

Approved by a 6-3 council vote, council discussion revolved around the Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley's recent hiring of Ross Marcus, the county's director of Human Services. CACLV runs Second Harvest food bank, which serves residents of Northampton and Lehigh counties.

County solicitor Daniel Spengler said that Stoffa reviewed the request of Marcus to terminate his employment to pursue the CACLV's deputy executive position without the required one-year waiting period.

Since the county's administrative policy allows for a case-by-case decision, Spengler said the administration decided that this hiring situation did not present any serious violation of CACLV's county contract. CACLV's funding is provided by pass-through grants from the state and federal government. Over the years, the organization has received fewer funding dollars and CACLV's services to the county are not duplicated by any other organization.