2009-10-08 / Front Page

Eyebrows Raised Over Clerk’s Appointment

Commissioners discuss filling of board vacancy at Needmore town meeting
By Chanin Rotz-Mountz STAFF WRITER

Eyebrows were raised by several county residents at last week’s town meeting regarding their perception of wrongdoing or impropriety in the appointment of former county commissioner Daniel Swain Jr. to the position of county clerk.

Even though only four area residents turned out for the October 1 gathering at the Needmore Bible Church, plenty of comment was given and questions raised to remaining commissioners Bonnie Mellott Keefer and David Hoover II on filling the clerk and county commissioner’s seats.

Keefer stated even though they were told action would quickly be taken to resolve the commissioner’s vacancy, it has turned into a rather lengthy process. Keefer added that she and Hoover were slated to meet with Fulton County Court of Common Pleas President Judge Douglas Herman on October 6 to discuss the judicial appointment. Of the 16 interested applicants countywide, a total of 10 have been interviewed by the judge, who has set a personal deadline of October 16 to announce his decision.

Buck Richards of Needmore publicly questioned why the process has taken so long. “What’s the big deal about it? ... Did it take so long 20 years ago?” asked Richards, who added most of the 16 candidates didn’t even run for consideration during the last commissioners’ race.

Keefer pointed out interested commissioner candidates must be at least 18 years old, a resident of Fulton County and of the same political affiliation. In the case of recently resigned commissioner Swain, the person filling the vacancy must be a Republican.

Even though all in attendance seemed to be of the same mindset that Swain has and would do a good job as county clerk, the residents did turn their sights on how he left his position as commissioner and came to serve in the capacity of county clerk.

George Truax simply stated, “It just didn’t look good.”

Keefer responded even though it may not have looked good to the general public, the board acted in accordance with County Code and the law. She also noted multiple individuals are appointed on an annual basis to positions ranging from solicitor and EMA/911 director to public defender and chief tax assessor. The most recent appointment occurred following the resignation of Veterans’ Affairs director Dale Miller, who was subsequently replaced by Ed Stenger.

Commissioner Hoover added even if the appointed position had been advertised and six to eight individuals were interviewed, he firmly believed he and Keefer would have reached the same conclusion. “Dan Swain is the best person for this position,” Hoover concluded.

Richards and Truax also took issue with the sale of county property online at www.co.fulton.pa.us/auction and not through an advertised public sale. Keefer said the items sold online have been well used and currently include old desks, envelopes, a Mercury Sable car and even old lighting fixtures. The current online auction will accept bids until October 15.

“It’s not a lot of valuable stuff and even afterwards we usually throw items in the dumpster,” said Keefer, who added often times the cost of running a legal notice or auction ad would cost more than what would be gained through the actual sale.

Touching on the proposed relocation of the office and staff of Magisterial District Judge Carol Jean Johnson into the adjacent truck bay at the Needmore Firehall, county projects coordinator Karen Hann stated a preconstruction meeting was recently conducted. Work by Eagle Construction is slated to begin any day, she said

Richards said the topic was still a “sore issue” with him, and he felt the judge needed a new office building. It was noted several issues arose, including location of sand mound, lack of road frontage and area for handicapped parking, that prohibited the commissioners from authorizing the construction of a new facility.

Looking ahead to the county’s office renovation plans, Commissioner Hoover indicated their prior “dream project” totalling $6 to $7 million has been placed on the back burner as a possible “plan for the future.” The new plan is estimated at $3.7 million, with the county authorized to borrow up to $4.2 million. He mentioned the commissioners have said again and again they do not want to raise taxes to help fund this expenditure.

Richard said that residents would be “holding you to that.”

Return to top