Lehigh Valley

Northampton County Council member slams county Controller Barron over 'fake news'

EASTON, Pa. - A Northampton County criticized Controller Stephen Barron Thursday night for spreading “fake news” in a critical report on travel and training spending by the county’s new human resources director.

Council Member Mathew Benol said Barron’s criticisms of Amy Trapp were nothing more than the latest “political hit pieces to come out of the controller’s office.”

“Enough is enough,” Benol said. “The controller’s office should be defunded.”

Benol said he wants to bring the matter up for discussion at council’s next meeting. Barron later defended his actions and dismissed Benol’s comments.

“Nobody is going to defund the oversight arm of Northampton County,” Barron said. “I’m not worried about that one bit.”

Last month, Barron told council he had uncovered a what he called a "staggering" increase in staff development training costs, and pointed to two trips to conferences, one to Las Vegas for a NeoGov User Conference, the other in New Orleans for a Workers Compensation Conference.

Barron told council training costs jumped from $5,749 to $56,758, an increase of 987 percent. County Executive John Brown has said the figures were taken out of context and defended the spending, saying training had been inadequately funded in the past.

Trapp said at Thursday’s night meeting that the trips were worthwhile, as well increased spending in training that Barron criticized.

Trapp said the county is saving money as a result of the training, noting what she said was a $700,000 savings in one year in worker compensation claims.

“The training is for the county, not human resources,” Trapp said.

In a related attack on Barron, Benol said the controller received more than $22,000 for election campaign work for District Attorney John Morganelli, money he said the controller did not mention in his ethics report.

“”I made no money on that,” Barron said. “I did not make a penny.”

Barron said the money paid the phone line “minutes” for a piece of software Barron has that placed more than three million phone calls for Morganelli’s election campaign. All the money was used to pay that bill, he said.

Benol, referring to the money, which he said amounts to a third of Barron’s salary, said the matter had been “kicked down the road” in the past.

“I think there’s a huge issue here,” Benol said.

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