Voters say “No” to Lackawanna County change

June 10th, 2015 9:34 am

First Posted: 5/20/2014

SCRANTON — Voters in Lackawanna County said a resounding “no” to the referendum to end the current three-commissioner form of government Tuesday night.

The latest numbers have approximately 25,341 people (57.4 percent) voting to keep its current system, with about 18,805 (42.6 percent) electing to adopt a new form of government.

“The Commissioner form of government in Lackawanna County is one of the most efficient and effective operations in the Commonwealth,” read a statement from the County Commissioners Office. “It has done more with less without any interruption in services to the general public. … Our Commissioner form of government is working and is testimony that bigger is truly not better. Smaller government gets things done.”

The structural change rejected by Lackawanna County voters is similar to that implemented in Luzerne County in 2012.

The customized home rule structure took a 150-plus-year-old Luzerne County government form and replaced it with 11 elected council members and an appointed county manager.

In Lackawanna County, had the Optional Plan of County Government been adopted, the three county commissioners would have been replaced by a seven-member legislative council, elected by district, and an elected county executive with veto power.

Instead, decision-making will be continued by the three county commissioners (two majority, one minority).

The current Lackawanna County commissioners are Republican Patrick O’Malley and Democrats Jim Wansacz and Corey D. O’Brien.

Lackawanna County Government Study Commission Chairman Charles Volpe believes a vote in favor of the Optional Plan of County Government would have had a positive impact on the region.

“It would have completely changed the county government for the better,” he said, “creating transparency and checks and balances between the legislative and executive government functions, while doing away with no-bid contracts within the county.

“That’s what our government was intended to be,” Volpe added, “checks and balances. It can’t all be in the power of … two little majority commissioners.”