Can Dueling Democratic Commissioners Govern?

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SCRANTON -- One of the commissioners in Lackawanna County is threatening to sue the county and called the first full meeting Wednesday morning illegal.

Jerry Notarriani even referred to himself as the minority commissioner even though he was elected in November as a Democrat on the majority side.

Fellow Democratic Commissioners Jerry Notarianni and Pat O'Malley are not on speaking terms and one expert says it could cause voters to wonder if commissioners are working on their behalf.

His silence spoke volumes. Every time Lackawanna County commissioners voted on agenda items, Democratic majority Commissioner Jerry Notarianni sat still. He didn't vote. He claimed the first official commissioners meeting was illegal.

"Something's going on. There's a problem in government in general, in a governing body like the commissioners, when the elected officials don't talk to each other," said Dr. Jean Harris, a Political Science Professor at the University of Scranton.

Harris says this rift between Notarianni and fellow Democrat Pat O'Malley leaves voters wondering if commissioners can get anything done.

"The longer that goes on then the government cannot do the work it's supposed to be doing. So certainly the citizens are going to suffer," Harris said.

Harris says the situation could confuse voters.

Democrats Notarianni and Pat O'Malley were the top getters in November and are considered majority commissioners, but O'Malley turned to Republican Laureen Cummings to appoint solicitors and others to executive positions.

So Notarianni claims he's now the minority commissioner and should be able to appoint a minority counsel.

Notarianni has threatened to go to court over the whole matter.

So is he or Cummings the real minority commissioner?

"State law, the constitution, the home rule charter in the county is not really clear on how we define minority," said Harris.

Commission chair O'Malley hopes this can be worked out so that Notarianni does not take his case to court.

"This is about government. I would have rather he voted today," O'Malley said.

*This webpage was updated to correct our initial story that said a recall election could be held in a year if voters signed a petition.  Further research shows that a Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling does not allow recalls elections for local officials.

1 Comment

  • ou812

    see the comments from yesterday disappeared !!!!!! Why even bother having a discussion or comment section if you people there can’t handle the truth

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