York County Commissioners have changed the language of the county's first code of conduct, apparently assuaging the concerns of row officers who took exception to a previous version that failed to note their independent control of their offices.
The eight-page code contains guidance on proper conduct in areas such as conflicts of interest, misuse of authority, use of public resources, avoiding personal comments that could offend others, and fidelity in office.
It had been intended to apply to all elected and appointed officials, though the commissioners don't oversee all those officials. The county's 10 row offices are filled by nine elected officials who, under state law, can operate their offices however they wish. That section of state law is numbered "1620," and it's oft-cited by officials to summon row officers' authority and independence from county boards.
While the row officers said they didn't object to the "common sense" conduct outlined in the code, some did object to the implicit oversight by the commissioners.
Clerk of Courts Don O'Shell said he didn't think the code was necessary for row officers and he didn't think the commissioners had the authority to impose it on them.
Row officer Brad Jacobs, who's register of wills and clerk of orphans court, led a group of row officers who objected. Though the code was adopted by ordinance last month, Jacobs requested last week that the language be changed to reflect the "1620" officials.
"We're independently elected by the voters, and really the only jurisdiction the county commissioners have over us is on funding," Jacobs said. "We're in charge of our own destiny and employees and their duties. It's too bad they didn't discuss it with us prior to the original adoption."
So at Wednesday's commissioners meeting, President Commissioner Steve Chronister and Vice-President Commissioner Doug Hoke voted to amend the law. Commissioner Chris Reilly was absent.
There was no material change, said county administrator Chuck Noll, but two sections now carry a 1620 disclaimer. The second disclaimer stretches beyond the code of conduct to emphasize the commissioners' lack of power over the other elected officials.
It reads: "This ordinance and any policies amended or approved by the board of commissioners for inclusion in the York County Policy Manual are not intended to and shall not alter, change, modify, restrict, or in any way impinge on any rights granted to elected officials by ... Section 1620 ..."
Jacobs said he feels the ordinance was unnecessary anyway, but he appreciated the change and expects no further discord from row officers.
County controller Robb Green, a row officer, said he also thought the ordinance unnecessary. When asked whether he was happy for the language change, he said he thought both the ordinance and the revision were wastes of time and county resources.
At Wednesday's meeting, Chronister addressed the apparent intrusion by apologizing to those who "thought we were trying to put something on them they didn't want."
- Reach Christina Kauffman at firstname.lastname@example.org.