Volpe moves to block reassessment vote
Ballot question ‘confusing,’ ‘misleading’
STAFF WRITER Insurance executive Chuck Volpe said Thursday he will go to court to block letting Lackawanna County voters decide whether to conduct a reassessment by authorizing the commissioners to borrow up to $13 million to undertake the project.
Volpe said the county commissioners should decide whether to reassess and the decision to put the question on the Nov. 7 election ballot violates the state constitution and laws requiring clear wording of ballot questions. He said he will file the challenge in county court by Monday or Tuesday and is “100 percent” committed to the challenge.
Volpe said the ballot question’s “vague,” “confusing”
and “misleading” wording shows the commissioners who approved its language intend for the referendum to fail.
Commissioners Patrick O’Malley and Laureen Cummings voted in June to put the reassessment question on the ballot. Commissioner Jerry Notarianni voted no. In August, by the same vote, the commissioners approved the question’s wording, which is:
“Shall the Lackawanna County Commissioners incur debt not to exceed $13 (Thirteen Million) Dollars solely for the purpose of conducting a countywide revision of assessment so that all real estate within the county will be assessed at a predetermined ratio of 100 percent of a new base-year value?”
Volpe said the references to potential cost and terms like “predetermined ratio” and “base-year value” show the wording is meant to confuse and ensure failure.
Volpe said he would have filed the challenge in August, but held off because someone else who seemed bent on challenging planned to do it but then didn’t. He refused to name the person.
Notarianni, an advocate of reassessment who served with Volpe on a county government study commission, wholeheartedly endorsed Volpe’s move as “the right thing to do.” He pointed out the county committed to borrowing up to $17 million to convert the Globe Store into new county offices without asking voters.
“There’s no question about it that it’s intended to fail,” he said of the reassessment referendum. “I hope somebody sues us and forces us to do it (reassessment).”
Efforts to reach O’Malley were unsuccessful. Cummings said she may have something to say, but did not call back after she initially spoke to a reporter.
Volpe hosts a weekly talk show on WOLF-TV and owns Excalibur Insurance Management Services LLC, which about a decade ago briefly oversaw the county’s workers compensation fund. When he led the county charter study commission in 2014, Volpe vowed never to seek the county’s business again and has stuck to that promise. Contact the writer: email@example.com; 570-348-9147; @BorysBlogTT on Twitter