Lehigh Valley

Northampton County Council eyes referendum for changes to sheriff appointment

Voters, not officials, may choose sheriff in future

EASTON, Pa. - Northampton County Council began discussions Thursday night to make the county sheriff position an elected position, not one based on appointment.

The idea surfaced in the wake of this week's decision by the new county executive, John Brown, to remove Sheriff Randall Miller.

The county executive's powers currently include the appointment of the county sheriff, subject to approval by council.

Councilman Lamont McClure referred to Miller's dismissal as being the right time to "start a dialogue" about making the sheriff's position an elected position.

"Almost all counties give people the right to decide who their sheriff will be," McClure said. "I think it's time to start talking about that."

McClure said a referendum would be required "to let people decide" if they prefer the status quo or a change that would put the position on the ballot.

Councilman Kenneth Kraft echoed McClure's view.

"I think it's time we should talk about this," he said, noting Northampton and possibly one other county were the only ones in the state that did not elect its sheriff.

Miller, who served for 25 years with the Bethlehem Police Department, became sheriff in 2009 when he was chosen by former county Executive John Stoffa.

Chief Deputy Sheriff, Christopher Zieger, has been selected to replace Miller as acting sheriff.

In another administrative move, Brown picked attorney Victor Scomillio, a 41-year-old Palmer Township resident, to be the next county solicitor with a salary of $58,060 a year.

Scomillio is a partner in the Bethlehem law firm Boyer, Holzinger, Harak & Scomillio.

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