Supreme Court ruling may short-circuit move to make sheriff elected position

Northampton County Council may face an "onerous process"

EASTON, Pa. - A recent ruling by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court may sink a proposal to make the sheriff of Northampton County an elected position, not an appointment.

In a March 26 decision, the state's highest court ruled that a government study commission is required before changes can be made in county government.

The case came out of Scranton in Lackawanna County where officials sought to change row office positions from elected jobs to appointed positions.

The lower courts approved the proposed change but the Supreme Court said,  in essence, they were wrong.

"The case is like a red flag," said Phil Lauer, the solicitor for county council, at a Thursday night council meeting.

Councilman Lamont McClure, who along with Councilman Ken Kraft are sponsoring  the resolution to make the sheriff an elected position, said, "I think this decision is huge."

The process of forming a government study commission is an "onerous process," McClure said. Lauer said it could take years.

Kraft suggested he might as well "just withdraw" the ordinance but council is expected to revisit the matter at its next meeting in two weeks.

The sheriff post, normally a low-profile position, has generated attention since County Executive John Brown fired Sheriff Randall Miller in January and appointed Chief Deputy Christopher Zieger as acting sheriff.

Miller is suing the county, council and Brown to get his job back.

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Allentown, PA 18102




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