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Lack of Public Discussion Deemed Inconsistent



The (Susquehanna County) Commissioners' meeting of Nov. 9 was regrettably predictable.  It was extremely short. The motions were not read out loud but addressed as follows: "Motion to approve Item Number ___. Any questions? All in favor? Motion approved."

They read the item numbers, but never the motion itself. There was no public discussion by the commissioners of any of the motions, including motion Number 11, which authorized an expenditure of $50,000 to hire a Philadelphia lawyers' firm to review labor disputes and contracts.  One commissioner did vote "No," an extreme rarity, but there was no public discussion of why he did so.

We are constantly amazed at how smart our commissioners are.  They read the item numbers of complex motions concerning the expenditure of thousands and hundreds of thousands of dollars of public tax money and, in an instant, with no reservations, no discussion (at least in front of the public), they vote.  They have had 60-second meetings and 90-second meetings, with most meetings lasting no longer than five minutes.  That is how the business of this county is done.

Agenda Item Number 13, a motion to appoint two people to the Library Board for a two-year term, was read out loud in its entirety by Commissioner (Leon) Allen.  One regular meeting attendee said, "This is the first time we've had a commissioner read an agenda item. Why is that?" Allen replied, "I wanted to recognize (name omitted)."  

"But you read the motion. You don't read any other motions," (the citizen continued). Allen responded with a shrug of his shoulders.

If one motion could be read in its entirety to “recognize” an individual, why can't all of the agenda items be read and discussed in public so as to comply with the Commonwealth's Open Meetings laws?

With the results of this past election, we look forward to a group of commissioners who will honor the Open Meetings Laws in their observance, rather than in their breach.


Bruce S. Paskoff


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