County board votes to overturn veto regarding electronic copies of budget
At its Jan. 10 meeting, Lehigh County Board of Commissioners overrode a veto by former county Executive Thomas Muller that sought to undo the requirement that the county provide an electronic copy of Lehigh County’s annual budget.
Before the vote, the commissioners listened to Muller explain why he had vetoed the measure.
In a letter dated Dec. 21, 2017, Muller recounted some “facts worth reviewing,” including the delivery of paper copies of the budget to commissioners on the same afternoon following its official release the Thursday before Labor Day. He said the online version had been released the morning after Labor Day.
Muller’s letter cited staff days off and retirements as contributing factors in the delay of the release of the online version.
Muller’s letter to the board closed with the comment, “It is unfortunate that I am closing out my term in office with a veto, particularly since the administration has met the requirement in recent years voluntarily and would plan to do so in the future, but the use of legislation to address someone’s personal pique is not proper governance.”
Muller’s reference was to Commissioner Amanda Holt, who had pressed for an electronic version of the annual budget.
Muller closed his personal comments to the board by describing the push for legislation by Holt as the result of a commissioner “not getting breakfast in bed.”
Former Commissioner Michael Schware followed Muller to the podium, saying that the legislation was not the result of anyone not getting “breakfast in bed.”
Commissioner Brad Osborne expressed regret that “personalities” had been brought into the issue.
The commissioners then voted 9-0 to override the veto.
Whitehall Township Mayor Edward D. Hozza Jr., nominee for Lehigh County director of administration, summarized his career accomplishments for the governance committee before the commissioners’ regular meeting. Hozza was seeking the commissioners’ approval for his proposed position.
The governance committee voted 9-0 to recommend Hozza’s hiring.
A vote to approve the administration’s hiring of Hozza for the position will be taken at the commissioners’ next meeting.
In other business, a nonbudgeted hire of a director of information, with a salary of $67,000-plus, by administration had the commissioners fuming.
Muller explained in an email to Holt how a $1 line item for a director of information turned into a more-than-$67,000 funded position.
“Simply stated,” Muller said in the email, “the public information officer position was established by taking a $1 position that was included in the adopted 2018 budget from general services with the rationale that the lack of that position over the past few years has been detrimental to the county’s commitment to transparency and citizen outreach. The balance between the $1 and the actual cost will be covered by shifts in the overall budget.”
Commissioners President Marty Nothstein summed up the board’s feelings as he addressed Josh Siegel, the administration’s hire for the job: “For $67,000, I want to see some information. Seriously, I want to see movement of the needle. I want people to talk — ‘Wow, a lot of information is coming out of the county! What a good investment.’”