The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

December 3, 2012

Cease spats and work together


Daily Item

---- — Northumberland County Commissioner Rick Shoch is absolutely correct when he argues that management style matters. We are glad to see that someone in the commissioners' office is taking the topic seriously. Concern about the harm in terms of lost credibility and very real losses from legal expenses and settlement costs are something we have raised repeatedly in this space.

Unfortunately, when Shoch speaks up to raise objections to the county budget by airing years' worth of grievances, it is hard to know if Shoch has the public interest at heart or if this is just another opportunity to score political points in the occasionally fractious environment of Northumberland County government.

Shoch on Friday evening issued a written statement, accompanied by documentation, that attempted to spell out his objections to the budget. Shoch's main point was that Commissioner Vinny Clausi's style of government is too often based on bullying, intimidation or public posturing.

Shoch pointed to an episode that is now almost two years old when Clausi during a public meeting accused sheriff's deputies of viewing pornography on county computers. The discovery of the pornography led to the dismissal of two deputies, but Shoch said that Clausi had been warned by then-Commissioner Frank Sawicki that making public statements could expose the county to a lawsuit. Sawicki's words were prophetic.

Shoch also maintained that Clausi's leadership style has contributed to delays in responding to demands from the state and federal governments. Clausi's failure could be costly and will put the county into a position of needing to scramble to adjust, Shoch said.

Clausi responded with his own allegation: Shoch skipped a budget meeting Friday morning, a decision Clausi suggested provided Shoch with time to author his Friday evening statement.

All of this is peevish, and the county commissioners ought to be able to do better.

Third-graders understand that those expected to work together need to be able to talk to one another.

All three county commissioners were elected by voters. Those voters are rightfully weary of the embarassing shenanigans in Northumberland County. The commissioners share the responsibility to develop a plan to operate the county in a financially responsible manner. The path forward ought to include a culture of courteous public service. A shift in tone could end the lawsuits and the need for commissioners to engage in these bitter and divisive spats.