Commissioners debate live-streaming, transparency in HR

Lycoming County commissioners are split over the need for transparency concerning the hiring and opening of positions, as well as live-streaming meetings, Tuesday.

Commissioner Jack McKernan questioned if human resources officials should attend meetings at all, and despite several public comment sessions encouraging the livestream of meetings, a motion to do so by Commissioner Rick Mirabito was left without a second.

The commissioners meet every Monday with Roxanne Grieco, deputy director of human resources, and other department heads for a brief on new positions and hires. It’s there they sign over their intent to approve of the hires at the next public meeting.

Mirabito said he questions the ethics — not the legality — of that practice.

“The public could actually help the commissioners get under control things like the number of staff and the spending,” said Mirabito. “Also, the public could better understand why sometimes we need more staff at a particular job.”

An informed public is necessary for the people-at-large to take responsibility for their voting habits, he said.

“If people know, then they can vote to elect or do whatever,” said Mirabito.

However, for McKernan, the act of electing an official confers the normal running of government to that official.

“You get elected to office to do the work for the people that elect you and they trust that, as a commissioner, you’re going to make the best decision,” he said.

Following Mirabito’s line of thought, McKernan said it would lead to public input on mundane purchases such as office supplies.

“I just see that turning into a long and drawn out processes and meetings that just will go forever,” he said.

Tony Mussare said he sided with Mirabito.

“If you bring it out into the public eye, as far as additional personnel or replacing, that’s how you try to control the growth of government,” Mussare said.

In terms of livestreaming the public meetings, Karl Demi, director of information technology, said he estimates it will cost around $2,000. Although the money is not budgeted for, department heads do have an allotment for costs and the funds are available from it.

One camera would be facing the commissioners, while another would trained on a lectern for department heads, in turn, to offer their proposals. This video feed would be broadcasted on the internet.

Mirabito moved to buy the required equipment but failed to gain support from the others.

McKernan and Mussare said they would prefer to have further discussion on the matter.

“When we do get it set up, we just have to be real clear on how it’s going to operate and what the ground rules are,” said McKernan. “That’s it, nobody else has any airtime or visibility.”

A more structured meeting would have to occur in order to keep the meeting from turning into a “circus,” he said.

Mirabito said any move to keep public meetings from livestreaming is a mistake.

“When people come to a meeting to petition their government — which is basically what the founding fathers did — the idea that’s a circus or that is somehow an agenda is incredibly insulting to the public,” he said.

Every effort should be made to keep the public informed, said Mirabito.

“We don’t exist for ourselves, we exist to serve the public. It’s up to them to decide.”