The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

December 7, 2012

Northumberland County tax rates to increase 2.9 mills

By Francis Scarcella
The Daily Item

— SUNBURY — Less than 24 hours after Northumberland County Commissioner Vinny Clausi defended himself in a press conference over allegations made by a colleague, Clausi, who was supposed to vote for the tentative 2013 county budget by phone, said he decided to attend Thursday’s meeting to try to “make peace” and “stop the bickering” with his accuser, Commissioner Rick Shoch.

“I read in the newspaper that Mr. Shoch wanted to see this board work together, and he asked that weekly staff meetings be put back in place,” Clausi said. “I agree, and I think we should.”

Clausi then said the second item on the budget was a calendar of scheduled county meetings, which included two night meetings.

“The two night meetings that were scheduled conflict with Mr. Shoch’s calendar, so I will accommodate him and change these dates,” he said.

Then the fireworks went off.

“I have always been willing to work with this board,” Shoch said. “I will continue to put information out there when things are being said that are misleading and untrue.”

Shoch then rehashed his allegations against Clausi, to which Clausi replied, “For God’s sake, enough.”

“I’m begging you to stop this,” Clausi added.

The third commissioner, acting Chairman Steve Bridy, said it was time to move on.

Shoch asked assistant solicitor John Muncer if he was allowed to continue because he was explaining why he would be voting against the proposed budget. Muncer said it is a matter of the budget and he could speak as long as he wanted.

Clausi interjected and said he was not feeling well but he came for the residents so the budget would be passed. He said he couldn’t take any more of the fighting, however, so he would leave.

Shoch continued to say the allegations he made about Clausi knowing about the Department of Community and Economic Development issue, the 911 Center project and the lawsuits against two fired sheriff deputies were true and that Clausi solved nothing at his “dog and pony show” press conference on Wednesday.

Clausi got up and left the meeting, saying, “When you are done, someone can come and get me so we can vote on the budget.”

Several minutes later, Muncer got Clausi and a vote was taken. Clausi and Bridy voted to approve the $73 million tentative budget, while Shoch voted no. Taxes are proposed to increase by 2.9 mills. Health insurance increases account for about half a mill of the increase.

Shoch then began to explain that he would be voting against the calendar of meeting dates for 2013, even though the commissioners agreed to change the dates that conflicted with Shoch’s schedule because he wanted four night meetings, not two.

During a public meeting in July, Shoch asked that the county add four night meetings to the calendar so that people could attend and provide input on the county’s governance.

Shoch asked for two night meetings in the commissioners’ office and two at other areas of the county to make them more accessible.

Clausi and Bridy voted to approve the two night meetings, while Shoch voted no.

The meeting was adjourned, and Shoch and Bridy got into an argument over a July meeting in which the commissioners charging for mileage was brought up for a vote.

Bridy said Shoch charged the county to drive to breakfast and to go get his picture taken for the paper. Shoch said he submitted mileage that was legitimate for county business and that he followed the county’s guidelines.

Clausi paced in and out of the commissioners’ office while the three elected officials argued.

“I will put my record and my integrity up against you, Mr. Bridy, any time,” Shoch said. “I’m going to make people own what they say.”