Wednesday, July 23, 2014

OUR OPINION: COUNTY POLITICS Talk of retaliation reeks of petty politics

October 07. 2013 10:56PM
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No matter how you look at it, Luzerne County’s saddest sort of petty politics raised its petulant head last week as County 911 Director John Robshaw reported a potential case of political retaliation against supporters of County Manager Robert Lawton.

As staff writer Jennifer Learn Andes wrote in Thursday’s edition of The Times Leader, Robshaw informed the county human resources office of a phone conversation with Art Bobbouine shortly after Bobbouine lost his county job. To hear Robshaw tell it, Bobbouine unveiled a cabal of three candidates for county council plotting not only to oust Lawton if elected, but also to “clean house,” scrubbing county offices of any high-level Lawton supporters — a de-Lawtonization, as it were.

The trio of candidates — incumbent Edward Brominski and challengers Mike Giamber and Richard Heffron — denied the allegations, pointing out council doesn’t control hiring and firing other than the county manager. Bobbouine declined comment other than to call it all “nonsense.”

Brominski, Giamber and Heffron also insisted they might disagree with Lawton’s decisions but wouldn’t try to plot his demise behind closed doors like some Third World junta.

How to interpret it all?

Maybe Robshaw’s report was accurate and the three candidates, seeing their conniving exposed, backpedaled and denied for fear of losing votes this November. After all, “We’re the team of political retaliation” doesn’t sound like the winningest slogan in the pile of campaign posters.

Maybe Robshaw took some ambiguous comments from a disgruntled ex-employee and whipped them into a froth to curry favor with Lawton and the powers that gave him his position. Or maybe he simply wanted to make sure that if the trio is elected and does form a majority that starts cleaning house, he’ll have some grounds for a lawsuit if fired.

Maybe Robshaw relayed Bobbouine’s comments accurately, but Bobbouine, hot under the collar and full of wishful thoughts, was putting words into the candidates’ mouths.

Or maybe it’s all only a matter of misunderstandings, misstatements and misinterpretations all around.

The problem, of course, is that in Luzerne County, any one of these interpretations is believable. County council candidates forging secret pacts to conduct a little scorched earth policy against political enemies post-election? Plausible. County employees conflating events to curry favor, or just conducting a little CYA? Within the realm of possibility. County politics devolving into a mass of accusations and denials that make it nearly impossible for voters to know what the truth is? What else is new.

What good can come of all this? Truthful openness on every participant’s part. If Brominski wants Lawton out, say it, explain the reasons and urge voters to pick candidates who will make it happen. If candidates are in that camp, admit it and make it part of their platform.

Just be honest and consistent, whether speaking in private or public, and this sort of thing can’t happen.

Then let voters decide.

Editor’s note: This editorial was intended for publication on page 6D of Sunday’s edition but was inadvertently replaced by the text of a prior editorial.

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