LAWRENCE CO. GOVERNMENT STUDY Vote favors council-manager
A report explaining the changes must be written by early September.
By LAURE CIOFFI
VINDICATOR NEW CASTLE BUREAU
NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- The Lawrence County Government Study Commission has agreed by a 5-3 vote to recommend to voters the county adopt a council-manager form of government, but some commission members don't think it's final.
"I do consider this to be an indicative vote, but I don't think this is something that is cast in stone," said Tom Shumaker, the commission chairman who voted against the measure.
The commission's newly hired solicitor, Jack Seltzer, disagrees.
When commission member Gale Measel, who also voted against the measure, tried to make a motion that the commission consider a county council with an elected executive, Seltzer said the vote was final.
Measel questioned counting two proxy votes submitted by Helen Jackson and Wendell Wagner. The commission has in the past counted proxy votes by others not attending meetings.
Wagner and Jackson sent letters stating they prefer a county council with a professional manager hired by the council.
Wagner stated in his proxy that if that was not agreed to he would also support a county council with an elected county executive. Jackson's proxy stated her second choice was home rule.
Measel contended both votes were "yes" for those other forms of government and more votes should be taken.
Commission member Beth Verterano, who made the original motion for a council-manager government, disagreed.
Her motion stated that the commission recommend to the voters in the coming November election that a county council with a professional manager replace the current three-commissioner form of government.
Gary Clark and Janet Verone also voted for the council-manager form of government.
Verterano said her motion was clear that would be the final decision.
D. John Razzano, Measel and Shumaker voted against the change. Amy Lamb left the meeting before the vote but said the only change she would agree to was a home rule charter.
Offers to step down
Shumaker came under fire from other commission members when he offered to step aside as chairman because he was not part of the majority.
"I'm disappointed. Just because this didn't go a particular way you would want to stand down in your position as chairman," Clark said.
Shumaker said he would prefer that someone who voted in favor of the council-manager form of government write the report, and writing it is part of the chairman's duties.
Verone suggested the majority write the report.
The study commission must submit a written report by early September to support the referendum, explaining why a change would be preferential to the current form of government.
Last week the commission agreed there would be a seven-member county council. They also agreed the county controller should remain an elected position.
The commission is trying to decide if the other row officers should be eliminated. By law, all row officers may be eliminated except district attorney.