Taxpayers Deserve Transparent County Government
I read with concern the January 7, 2010, edition of the “News” in which the commissioners state that Fulton County taxpayers bore the burden of $103,342.62 in legal expenses to conclude a four-year negotiation with but seven county employees. Later in the article the commissioners state:
“It is estimated that the expenditures would have increased eight times compared to the cost of the legal fees if the county accepted the original proposal of the union.”
Who in the county government made this “estimate” and on what budget information was this estimate based? Where did the funds for the legal expenses come from? What line item or line items in the budget suffered a reduction to provide the funds for the legal expenses? Which programs lost funding due to the assignment of these funds to legal expenses?
Further, there would be no need for a union if commissioners Keefer, Swain and Yingling had made a sincere effort to listen to their county employees. Mr. George Cutchall comments in his January 14, 2010, letter to the editor that he “worked as a juvenile probation officer during the initial forming of the union.” During my employment as a domestic relations hearing officer at the same time, I remember Mr. Cutchall’s frustration with his attempts to speak with the commissioners regarding basic employee concerns months before unionization became a formality.
Mr. Cutchall repeatedly encountered the commissioners’ deaf ears. Mr. Tom Krause, teamsters representative, did what the commissioners would not do: he listened. The rest is history.
I am also concerned that it required a “PA Open Records” request submitted to the county by the “News” to inquire about the expenditure of public funds. Mr. Cutchall relates in his letter that a citizen “was initially denied his request for this information and had to resort to a Freedom of Information Act (as reported by the “News”) to get the county to release this cost information.”
The United States Constitution guarantees citizens the opportunity to seek redress from the government. Why such resistance in Fulton County? How many other Fulton County taxpayers will have to resort to a Freedom of Information Act to get answers to straightforward questions? It is apparent that the concept of “transparency” in government is dying in Fulton County as it is dying in Washington, D.C. Hardworking taxpayers deserve the courtesy of straight answers. The commissioners work for the citizens, not the other way around.
Finally, in the January 7, 2010, commissioners column I note the upcoming retirement of the county chief probation officer. I sincerely hope that President Judge Herman and the sitting judges will be heavily involved in the selection of a successor.
During my service as a domestic relations hearing officer, I was continually impressed by the painstaking care that all of the sitting judges displayed to both plaintiff and defendant alike when applying the law. All persons coming before the court deserve such fairness. I look forward to its return to county government.
J. Michael DeLuca