Groundhog Day? Judge applicant names kept secret
It feels like Groundhog Day.
With Lycoming County Judge Richard A. Gray retiring at the end of June, the county bench has an interim opening to fill until Gray’s term officially ends next year.
Gov. Wolf’s office is in charge of making the interim appointment.
Wolf’s office was accepting applications last month and has had them in hand for more than two weeks.
But the public has no idea who is seeking to fill an unexpired term to a critical, elective position in Lycoming County’s justice system.
The Sun-Gazette has filed a Right-to-Know request to see both the names and the applications, which are public information.
“The candidates are seeking an elected office and the usual process to fill an elected office is completely public,” Melissa Melewsky, Media Law Counsel with the state news media association, said. “The process of filling vacancy should be as public as the normal election process.”
We believed the same thing a few years back when there was an unexpired term to be filled for the Lycoming County Commissioners, the elected stewards of millions of dollars in taxpayer funding annually and operations of the largest geographic county in Pennsylvania.
That appointment was in the hands of Lycoming County’s judges. The names of the applicants have not been released to this day. (See the box below this editorial.)
The Sun-Gazette is attempting to gain revisions in the Right-to-Know Law to make public disclosure of candidates to fill unexpired, interim terms to elective offices mandatory.
That legislation is deserved by not just Lycoming County residents, but all Pennsylvania.
For now, let’s hope the governor’s office is not going to repeat the secrecy practiced with the commissioners’ opening in its appointment of an interim county judge.