The LuLac Edition #2006, April 2nd, 2012
The late Bill James. I'll miss him at those GOP 6th District meetups.
BILL JAMES DIES
Luzerne County lost a very good citizen last night at 11PM. Bill James died after a short illness. James could have been a very good public servant as a State Representative and Luzerne County Commissioner. He ran very good and active campaigns that highlighted his common sense and patriotic philosophy of what government could become. But he was mired in the ineptitude and games of the modern day Republican party that really never supported a candidacy like his on a financial and foot soldier basis. I always wondered how better our government could have been if Bill James had the opportunity to serve in some capacity. Still he remained loyal to the basic principles of his party. He made a run for County Council in the primary last year. I watched some of his thoughts on You Tube the other night and his interview with the Times Leader was a veritable civics lesson. On the campaign trail, he was friendly, funny, engaging and someone, despite any differences you’d be proud to know. Our condolences go out to his family, his Coast Guard brethren (my friend Wil Toole also a Coast Guard vet informed us this weekend of his illness) his neighbors, friends and Republican party stalwarts. It is customary for people to nod and say, “He was a good man” when one hears of a passing. Sometimes a comment like that is just lip service, but in the case of Bill James, it was the God’s truth. He will be missed.
Simpson vs. Griffith, Round 2?
SIMPSON RESIGNS FROM ETHICS BOARD
Bruce Simpson has tendered his resignation as a member of the Ethics Board. In a scathing e mail to the Council, Simpson has again taken issue with one of the members of the Ethics Board, Walter Griffith, the Controller. To recap, from LuLac last week;
The Ethics Chair was out of town this past week as was the County Manager. Controller Walter Griffith then informed Ethics Board member Bruce Simpson that he was Acting Chair of the council. Simpson received a directive from the Chairman of the Luzerne County Council to turn over the Ethics Code work that had been done to date, as it was never the intention of Council to have the Ethics Commission write the code. That is plainly the job of the Council. On previous votes by the Commission, it was determined to ignore the requests of the Council for the work product in progress. Simpson complied with the directive of the head of the Luzerne County Government and turned over the draft Ethics document so that the council could do their job. They needed a few days to review what had been done to date in order to be better prepared for the Council work sessions scheduled for April 2, and 3. A message from the Vice-Chair of the County Council to the members of the Ethics Commission thanked the group for their work and welcomed further input as Council moved forward to approving the Code once formally present by the County Manager. Vice-Chair then went on to say, thank you, we have the document now and will begin our work on the document.
Since the ACE Commission was formed to conduct investigations and issue findings, the Commission exceeded its mandate by tying up the Ethics Code beyond the requests to turn it over. The ACE Commission was never meant to write the Code or do a final document. In view of that message, Simpson, Acting Chair, canceled this weeks meeting of the three remaining members of the Commission as technically there was no lawful work for it to do. Both Griffith and the D.A. were informed of the Acting Chairs decision, with which Griffith objected and stated he would show up anyway. Since it takes three to make a quorum, no lawful business could be conducted. During this entire process, the Chair of the ACE Commission threatened to publicly censure Simpson if he turned over the document to Council.
After this was made public. County Council member Gene Kelleher sent an e mail regarding Simpson’s actions and his (Simpson’s attack on Walter Griffith.) Kelleher was Griffith’s campaign manager in 2009). Most Rev. Bruce Simpson stated, "Next election, let's put someone in there who is capable of doing an audit himself or herself is necessary!" I find that statement at the very least inappropriate for someone on the Luzerne County Ethic's Commission. If Mr. Simpson has a problem with Mr. Griffith, he should deal with Mr. Griffith. Mr. Simpson owes all of us he has publicly involved in this personal disagreement an apology.
The County Council is celebrating it's 3 month anniversary today. We have a county manager who was appointed about 1 month ago. We have a new ethics commission which is fortunate to have a member whose educational and experience background is exceptional, and she and other members are volunteering their time to give the council welcome input on an Ethics Code draft. Now is not the time to make political statements.
Let's make a comparison. One man on an ethic's commission makes a public political statement about an election which will not take place until 2013. A woman on the ethic's commission in an unpretentious, humble manner volunteers her time to help a neophyte council. A man with impeccable credentials, Dr. Thomas Baldino (a member of the election board) said in a County Council meeting he will not make any public statements about Luzerne County politics. Our goal should be to provide Luzerne County Taxpayers the most ethical, efficient government possible by working together in a spirit of cooperation.
Now Kelleher has been pretty reasonable and courageous on Council. He was one of the gutsy members to vote for a tax increase. He was going to take Griffith’s side. This e mail prompted the resignation from Simpson:
To Council and Ace:
Mr. Kelleher donated $500 to Walter Griffiths election efforts that transformed a mechanic into the controller of Luzerne County. Both the "unpretentious, humble" woman and this overrated mechanic tried to take the issue of my compliance with the Council's wishes public as a way to embarrass me. I owe no one an apology for that, or for giving my opinion as a taxpayer. This is Luzerne politics as usual. Might I remind Mr. Kelleher, this "personal disagreement," started when I complied with the directions of the Council!
I hereby submit my resignation as a member of the Ethics Commission. My main goal now is to ensure Walter Griffith goes back to the auto shop where he belongs. Hopefully next year, this sad county will have someone in the Controller's job that will actually be capable of carrying out the duties of the office. If you want to muzzle free speech for citizens that try and serve this county, then make that plain up front. I have more than earned my right to express my views by the service which I have given this country. The fact that Mr. Kelleher and friends don't like that, is just too bad. Oh, how are those audits coming? Please give me ONE example of where anyone with sanity, would allow someone that has cheated a government entity out of tax dollars, to name their own auditor to conduct the audit that Council ordered? If Griffith was qualified or the last two people he fired were qualified, his office would be conducting the audit.
Thank you and good bye.
Most Reverend Bruce J. Simpson, OSB
Two things here, losing Simpson to the Ethics Commission is going to be one big loss to Luzerne County. His experience as well as his straightforward common sense will be a great loss. It’s too bad there could not be an accommodation met with all the parties. That said, hurling insults at Griffith’s occupation is not going to hold political water. I went to those GOP meetings during the Spring 2009 primary and heard the sniffing and tut tutting of the Luzerne County GOP elite about “the auto mechanic”. Former Commissioner Mary Anne Petrilla was also not blameless in her criticism of Griffith’s occupation. In a time when no one trusts government, Griffith has made himself a working class hero. And the people who like and support him don’t care about the audits. That’s too complex a problem to wrap their minds around. What they do understand is that someone else is attacking a former working man that made good. And there are more working stiffs around getting their hands dirty that understand Griffith’s attack on spending. If Griffith decides to run in 2013, he will need to answer some tough questions about those audits and how he missed the billings from Angela Stevens’ law firm. But going after him for a prior occupation will backfire.
My hope is that someone will referee this confrontation. The fact that the Chairwoman of the Ethics Commission has not said anything publicly tells me she does not want to solve this issue. I hope I’m wrong but I think all parties involved should have a meeting. Because at the very core, Simpson was following the Charter. At least that’s how I interpreted it.
11th Congressional candidate Bill Vinsko.
VINSKO FOR CONGRESS
Bill Vinsko, Democratic Candidate for Congress, has again been endorsed for Congress in the 11th Congressional District of Pennsylvania. The Vinsko for Congress Campaign announces that the Central Pennsylvania Building and Construction Trades Council, serving Dauphin, Cumberland, Northumberland, Perry and Montour Counties of the 11th District, endorsed Bill Vinsko based on his support of and ideas for the working families of Pennsylvania. The Council consists of the following organizations: Asbestos Workers; Bricklayers; Boilermakers; Carpenters; Cement Masons; Elevator Constructors; IBEW; Ironworkers; International Union of Painters and Allied Trades; Laborers; Heavy Highway Laborers; Operating Engineers; Pipefitters; Teamsters and Roofers.
Bill Vinsko was recently endorsed by the Northeastern Pennsylvania Building and Construction Trades Council.
From Bill Vinsko:
“I am truly honored to be recognized by the hard-working people of Central Pennsylvania, and I pledge to work just as hard for them as their Congressman. Pennsylvania needs jobs, and Congress needs to get things done. The people of Central Pennsylvania know how vital it is to improve our highways and bridges and to make them safer for our families. The 11th District is a new community, and I am proud to have support from the working families from all nine counties.”