New Castle News

Editorials

January 10, 2014

Our Opinion: Dispute over scheduling of meetings warrants public attention

NEW CASTLE — Something funny is going on in Pulaski Township.

At least it’s funny if you live elsewhere. Some of the antics by Pulaski government officials could be seen as quite entertaining.

But if you’re a resident of Pulaski Township, these goings on aren’t funny. They are an embarrassment to the community.

We refer primarily to the ongoing dispute over the scheduling of the Pulaski Township auditors’ annual meeting. It seems that one or more of the township supervisors planned the meeting and ran a legal notice for the session without bothering to check if the time was convenient for the auditors. It wasn’t.

We don’t understand the rationale of such a move. Because the auditors are elected officials in their own right, they should have the ability to set the time of their own meeting.

And at the very least, the supervisors who schedule it ought to consult with the auditors beforehand.

We presume that’s how it works in most townships. Why it didn’t happen in Pulaski suggests a certain level of pettiness among officials.

That’s bad enough, but what’s worse, it presents a legal problem. The only real job of the auditors at the annual meeting is to set the salaries for township roadmasters. And because no official meeting took place this week, we assume the township has no legal authority to pay its roadmasters.

Who does that help? No one.

Meanwhile, township residents are left to puzzle over the fact one auditor, Dan Abramson, requested salary information from the township regarding the roadmasters and was told he would have to file an open records request with a five-day waiting period.

This is ridiculous, and it is not the purpose of Pennsylvania’s Open Records Law.

Readily available information, such as the salaries of roadmasters, should be easily obtained by auditors without a five-day wait or even an open records request filing. When this sort of run-around is given, township residents ought to be wondering what’s going on.

In fact, this conduct — along with demonstrating a basic contempt for the public’s right to know — explains why Pennsylvania needed its current Open Records Law. It also explains why the law must be strengthened.

Based on what’s been happening recently, we gather there is bad blood among some folks in Pulaski Township government. That’s too bad.

But it’s no excuse for this sort of behavior. Taxpayers ought to expect a basic level of mature conduct from their government officials. When they don’t get it, they need to start demanding better.

Otherwise, it’s bound to get worse.

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