Flannery joins commissioners, Keller remains board chairman

Andrea Rose news@echo-pilot.com

Franklin County has a new commissioner, but not a new chairman of the board.

Republican John Flannery, who owns John Allison Public House in Greencastle with his wife, Ame, took his seat on the board during a reorganization meeting Monday morning. His supporters were hoping he would be named chairman of the board of commissioners.

For many years in the county, the top vote-getter has been appointed chairman and Flannery was the top vote-getter in the November election.

"A new start with a new member of the board is gonna be very substantial for Franklin County," Washington Township Supervisor Stewart McCleaf told the board Monday morning. "It's your decision, but I think John would be a good leader and he deserves a chance, being the top vote-getter."

"If you are concerned about his availability to lead a meeting ... I can assure you that's not an issue with Mr. Flannery," added Antrim Township Supervisor Fred Young. "Respect the will of the people ... make Mr. Flannery chairman."

There are no laws that govern county board chairmanship, and guidelines in the Manual for County Commissioners published by the state Department of Community and Economic Development state any of the board members may be named chairman.

However, there has been a tradition in the county to name the top vote-getter chairman, with only a few deviations from that tradition over the years.

Despite the impassioned pleas on Flannery's behalf, two of the three commissioners remained steadfast in supporting status quo.

Commissioner Bob Ziobrowski nominated Commissioner Dave Keller as chairman.

Flannery then offered his own nomination.

"Against my will, I'm going to nominate myself. It's a little unconventional to do that, but I understand the situation," Flannery said.

Keller, a Republican who has been serving as chairman, sided with Ziobrowski, a Democrat.

"Up until 10 years ago, it was custom to elect the top vote-getter as chairman," Keller said. "However simply in the interest of continuity and experience in regard to county operations, I believe it's in the best interest for the time being."

Keller said he would be willing to reconsider when the board reorganizes next year.

According to state law, county commissioners are required to organize only at the beginning of a new term, meaning technically, Keller could remain chair for the next four years. However, the county has a tradition of reorganizing annually.

"This is not a decision I make lightly," Keller said. "It's something we need to revisit on an annual basis. I certainly do not intend to be chairman forever."

Keller said there is no written job description or documented list of duties of the role of chairman, however his interpretation of county tradition and policy for the role is "to speak for the county and make sure the goals and visions of the county are clearly communicated appropriately," he said.

During the two-and-a-half-hour meeting Monday, the board also made appointments to multiple boards and committees and set wages for many county employees.

Meeting times 

The commissioners also considered changing meeting times for the board, with Flannery suggesting holding only one public meeting per week and making it an evening meeting at 7 p.m. on Thursdays, as well as a quarterly meeting held outside the commissioners' office in other municipalities.

"I'm in favor of having occasional evening meetings and I'm also in favor of having meetings in other areas of the county," Ziobrowski said. However, he had a "strong objection" to weekly evening meetings.

County Administrator Carrie Gray said the idea of once weekly evening meetings is a concern for her on a variety of levels.

Currently, the commissioners hold a workshop meeting on Tuesday, with the bulk of the action taken on Thursday, allowing time for the public to review and provide feedback on potential action.

Gray said logistically, meeting once a week may not allow the public time to review actions and she is concerned about staffing the evening meetings as well.

"I suggest we walk before we run and see how the meetings are received on a quarterly basis," Keller said.

The board unanimously agreed to keeping the meetings to 9:30 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, but adding a quarterly meeting elsewhere, to be determined later.

Flannery said he would like to revisit a conversation about regular evening meetings.

"(Morning meetings are) convenient for us, but it's not convenient for the voters of Franklin County," Flannery said.

The commissioners meet at 9:30 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays in the commissioners' office, 340 N. Second St., Chambersburg.