Volpe moves to block re­assess­ment vote

Bal­lot ques­tion ‘con­fus­ing,’ ‘mis­lead­ing’

The Times-Tribune - - Front Page - BY BORYS KRAWCZENIUK

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: bkrawcze­niuk@timessham­rock.com; 570-348-9147; @Bo­rys­BlogTT on Twit­ter


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