Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Dissent Grows Amongst Commissioners

(After reading this article a few times, one can't help but wonder if any provisions of the Sunshine Act are being violated by King James the Turd and Prince Joseph...maybe a former county solicitor or a good, honest Republican attorney can chime in on this?-B.)

By MARGARET GIBBONS, Times Herald Staff

COURTHOUSE — The creation of Montgomery County’s new Strategic Economic Development Policy Task Force continues to generate dissent among the county commissioners.

Commissioner Bruce L. Castor Jr., who is opposed to the task force, has claimed the other two commissioners, Chairman James R. Matthews and Vice Chairman Joseph M. Hoeffel III, are withholding the resumes of prospective task force members from him.

Castor said a county administrator advised him that Matthews told him Castor was not permitted to have the resumes.

That is not accurate, according to Matthews.

Anyone can look at the resumes of the candidates, including reporters who also were not provided with resumes on the last two candidates, if the resumes exist, said Matthews.

“I did not request resumes from these folks because most of them are so well-known in the community,” said Matthews. “It would be a little outlandish of me to request resumes from these distinguished members of the community.”

The last two members appointed to the task force and for which there were no resumes available were Montgomery County Industrial Development Corporation Chairman Jeffrey Heebner and Ross Myers, chairman and chief executive officer of American Infrastructure in Worcester.

The issue of the resumes came just two weeks after the commissioners, again voting 2-1, added 10 new members to the task force, in part, to make up for the lack of women initially appointed.

Of those 10 new members, resumes or background information on eight of the 10 were provided including all six of the female appointees.

Using the information he garnered from her resume, Castor, a Republican, at that meeting questioned the credentials of Lower Merion Commissioner Jane Dellheim, calling her a “poster child” for the county Democratic Party. Matthews, a fellow Republican who has long been at odds with Castor and has instead shared power with Democrat Hoeffel, at that time called Castor “an embarrassment.”

In a related matter, the task force held its first meeting on May 14. While the meeting was open, neither the public nor media were advised a meeting had been scheduled.

“I believe the commissioners made a mistake in not officially notifying the press of the meeting although the door was open,” said Hoeffel, who was handed the county’s commerce and economic development portfolio by Matthews.

The task force is charged with working with the county’s consultant in developing and recommending to the commissioners an economic development plan.

The consultant prepared a list of some 15 economic development issues for task force members to review at their first meeting, according to county Deputy Chief Operating Officer Steven L. Nelson.

These issues ranged from revitalizing older communities to “business friendliness” to brain-and-labor drain to physical infrastructure.

The “homework” for task force members is to each come back with their “top three” issues. The task force will focus on the three top priority issues they select at their next meeting. That meeting is scheduled for June 16.

Realtor and county planning commission board member Charles Tornetta and lawyer and county revitalization board member Morris Dean co-chair the 34-member task force.

Margaret Gibbons can be reached at mgibbons@timesherald.com or 610-272-2501 ext. 216.

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