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Wayne Independent - Honesdale, PA
  • The real truth about actions of the council

  • In most places, public opinion counts in the minds of elected officials.
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    In most places, public opinion counts in the minds of elected officials.
    Following the law, as well.
    Not in Honesdale.
    Just last week, the council members were all found guilty of violating the Sunshine Act by doing business behind closed doors.
    Then Monday night, the argument could be made they did the same thing — only this time nobody knows when they decided to make the decision.
    Out of the clear blue during the council meeting, members decided to create the position of police commissioner.
    No advertising.
    No public comment.
    Nothing.
    Just created it, cast a vote and, shazam, we now have a police commissioner.
    It didn't matter to the members of the council that a petition with some 700 signatures had been presented to them asking them to listen to the public.
    According to council member Harry DeVrieze, those people are simply the small minority in Honesdale because he has apparently put on his wizard hat and deemed he knows everyone in the majority who can't stand the police department.
    DeVrieze, like the rest of the council, is living in a fantasy world.
    In one sense, DeVrieze is right. The person they chose to be a police commissioner, Rick Southerton, is irrelevant in all of this.
    Page 2 of 4 - He's right in the sense that it is the process which has been flawed.
    But DeVrieze sees the process flawed by the police department, not the council.
    He even said the matter has "gotten personal."
    That's the last thing any politician should admit.
    What he is failing to say is this is personal on behalf of the council members.
    They were found guilty of violating the law and the police officer in charge of the department brought the suit.
    It doesn't take a genius to figure out they took that very personally and the public paid the price at Monday's meeting.
    Even though some would like to accuse this newspaper of sensationalizing all of this, that's just not the case. We didn't bring any of this on, it was brought on by a council which had an agenda and was going to make it happen no mater what the public might think.
    And let's not forget the role of councilman Jim Brennan in all of this mess.
    Brennan has obviously been the force in the campaign to paint the police department as bumbling oafs who do nothing but harass the public. He's the one who pushed and pushed to get someone from outside the department.
    Could the fact Brennan has been in the back of police cars on more than one occasion have anything to do with his feelings?
    Let's face it, Brennan has had to wear an ankle monitoring bracelet while participating in council meetings.
    Page 3 of 4 - No bias there, right?
    Many think Brennan should not even be able to vote on the issue because of his run-ins with the law thanks to his drinking and driving convictions, which have been proven in courts of law.
    Yet it was Brennan who was adamant about naming Southerton as the police commissioner in spite of the fact the position was never advertised and, as far as we know, there isn't even a job description.
    Borough taxpayers are now coughing up $45,000 a year to pay someone who doesn't even have a job description. It is also unclear just how much Southerton can do at the police department since he is not a certified police officer.
    Did the taxpayers just hire a glorified secretary and PR guy?
    Time will certainly tell on that issue.
    And the biggest issue of all has yet to surface and will almost certainly cost the taxpayers dearly.
    Through all of this dysfunction members of the police union have been quietly taking in the absurdity.
    But let's not forget the police union has very talented lawyers who are most certainly drafting the lawsuits as you read this.
    That will cost thousands of dollars just to defend. It's hard to imagine how much it will cost the taxpayers should the union win the suits, which is almost a given.
    The biggest problem the council has is it has bungled this entire episode.
    Time and time again it has been pointed to these members that they were going down a slippery slope. They were told by many that their actions behind closed doors violated the Sunshine Act, yet they didn't seem to care until a judge said that was indeed the case.
    Page 4 of 4 - Many have said over and over the council should follow certain protocols when selecting such high-profile positions. They practically begged members to properly advertise and then make very public their process for selecting a police chief.
    But the council would have none of it and so the process has unfolded in a manner which is simply a disservice to the taxpayers.
    And it's the taxpayers of the borough who are the losers in all of this drama. They are the ones who are going to be footing the bill for the impending lawsuits. They are the ones who are going to have to pony up and find even more money for the newly created position. And they are the ones who should be embarrassed by the actions of their elected officials.
    Those who want to blame others will continue to do so. They will speak of shoddy police work and yellow journalism from this newspaper. They will yell the loudest, as always.
    But they are wrong and history will prove it to be so.
    When the people speak and the elected leaders don't answer, that's the problem. Finger pointing at others is always an easy way out for some, but they know the truth.
    It's the council who created this mess and it's the taxpayers who will ultimately be responsible.
    And that is the truth.
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