Bethlehem Press

Monday, January 21, 2019
press photo by bernie o’hareKen Kraft is halfway through his second term on Northampton County Council. press photo by bernie o’hareKen Kraft is halfway through his second term on Northampton County Council.

NorCo-Ken Kraft under nepotism scrutiny

Tuesday, October 24, 2017 by Bernie O’Hare Special to the Bethlehem Press in Local News

Under Northampton County’s career service rules, a job vacancy must first be offered to someone who already works for the county. As positions become open, county staffers often apply. This gives qualified people a chance to move up and prove themselves. But when a department head concludes that no one on the inside is qualified for an open slot, he or she can hire someone from the outside. One such recent outside hire by Human Resources Director Amy Trapp is raising eyebrows. She has recently hired a Human Resources recruiter who will make it that much easier for Trapp to push her agenda through Council’s Personnel committee. She’s hired Chairman Ken Kraft’s wife.

Trapp’s decision to hire Kraft’s wife is easy to understand. It gives her and Executive a friendly face on Council who will be reticent to push the administration on salary compression and doing a proper pay study. As the Chair of the Personnel Committee, Kraft could decide not to list matters that Trapp would prefer not to see.

Northampton County’s nepotism policy extends beyond supervisor and subordinate relationships. It also bars members of the same family or household from county employment if it would create an “actual conflict of interest” or “the appearance of a conflict of interest.”

The term “conflict of interest,” as defined in the state ethics act, includes an elected official’s use of the authority of his office for the private pecuniary benefit of himself or a member of his immediate family. Under state law, he and his immediate family are restricted from accepting employment if it is based on any understanding by that elected official that his votes and official actions will be influenced as a result.

Ken Kraft has adamantly denied that his wife’s hire has anything to do with his role as Chair of the Personnel Committee. There’s no evidence of a quid pro quo, other than the hire itself.

Nevertheless, this certainly may create the appearance of a conflict of interest and thus violate the county nepotism police.

Kraft can resolve this matter by giving up his role as Chair of the Personnel Committee. He has thus far refused. He said he would if Council President John Cusick asks him to step aside.

Kraft represents Bethlehem, Freemansburg, Hellertown and Hanover Township on NorCo Council. He is also President of District Council 21 of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades That union is a major Democratic donor.