The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

April 27, 2014

OUR VIEW: If we had county home rule, we wouldn’t be in this mess


- — The controversy about Mercer County Commissioner Brian Beader continues to heat up as he apparently may have misled the public about the reason he was still maintaining the job.

Beader has come under fire for holding another full-time job for many months and only doing minimal work in the county position. However, he recently announced that he was planning to resign, but wanted to stay on until he was assured that a sewer project for the county’s “gravel pit” development area is approved.

That announcement started processes to prepare for that resignation as the county Democrat Party started considering names to recommend to judges to replace Beader.

A Herald editorial last Sunday encouraged the resignation to come sooner than later so the county taxpayers could be represented by someone who was earning the huge salary and benefits that they provide for commissioners.

However, maybe Beader’s true colors showed Thursday at the commissioners meeting.

Matt McConnell, who has been critical of Beader’s absence from county business much of the time, brought up the motion to donate the property in question to the Upper Neshannock Watershed Authority for a sewer project about which Beader has been so concerned.

But after the motion, Beader refused to second it to bring it to a vote. The third commissioner, John Lechner, was absent. We can only hope that Lechner wasn’t absent in a political ploy to allow Beader to have an excuse to remain on board. But it certainly doesn’t pass the smell test, especially since Lechner knew the importance of this vote to seeing Beader step down.

Beader made several excuses about why he wouldn’t vote on it at this time, but none of them hold water. We agree with McConnell that it is simply a case of Beader trying to continue to receive a salary and benefits that he doesn’t deserve.

But it shouldn’t just be McConnell speaking out about Beader’s inaction. Taxpayers should be up in arms. Democrat Party Chairman Charlie Rice should be a lot more vocal that Beader is a disgrace to the party and needs to step down immediately.

Rice said, “We’re not going to take him to the courthouse square and whip him or anything.” Too bad. Kind of makes you long for the day they used to tar-and-feather politicians and run them out of town on a rail.

Unfortunately, Pennsylvania doesn’t have a law that allows a referendum vote to remove politicians from office. Therefore once elected, they can really do nothing and still be paid until the next election.

But this shows why Mercer County needs to revisit “home rule” and get away from the archaic restrictions set up by the state for counties. Besides allowing more leeway on taxes, the home rule charter could also dictate the work that commissioners need to do to maintain their posts. A vote for home rule government at the county level unfortunately failed in the 1970s.

The ideal would be to have a county manager run the county and part-time commissioners be elected from various districts of the county to serve on the board. There are many more cost-saving moves that also could be made under home rule.

But right now the main thing is to find a way to push the unethical Beader out of office. Matt McConnell commented: “I have no problem with Brian Beader being a commissioner; I have a problem with him not being a commissioner!”

So do we and so should every taxpayer in Mercer County.