People can call Schuylkill County Controller Melinda Kantner many things, but what they will never be able to say is that she isn’t a fighter. On Friday, Kanter sued the Schuylkill County Board of Commissioners over their recent personnel decisions that downgraded two of her top deputies to part-time status and transferred her best accountant to a political rival’s office. She alleges in the 12-page complaint that Commissioners Mantura Gallagher, Francis McAndrew, and Frank Staudenmeirer violated the Sunshine Act and the County Code last month when they eliminated auditor Paul Bubas’ post in the controller’s office to move him to a new position, financial analyst, within the county administrator’s domain.
Kantner believes that the commissioners are attempting to paralyze her office as political retribution for a variety of very public tiffs with the commissioners and other county officers over the past year. Back in March, Gallagher and County Solicitor Eric Mika muzzled Kantner at county workshop meetings, telling her that she was to be seen and not heard. Then, Kantner refused to reimburse Gallagher and county administrator Darlene Dolzani for expenses incurred on a trip to Michigan to deal with the now defunct county computer program saying that the expenses were not reimbursable under the current travel policy. She was later sued by Dolzani for allegedly telling a Republican and Herald reporter that Dolzani was fired from her last job. Finally, Kantner took her fellow democrats to the woodshed for pushing through a sale of the 1912 Building that reeked of patronage.
It is clear that Gallagher and McAndrew want Kantner gone. She has been the democrats’ biggest roadblock in their mission to impose their own personal will on Schuylkill County. The Clarke Report was even told that Schuylkill democrat chieftains were looking for ways to completely remove her from office. Until they have adequate grounds to do so, it is clear that Gallagher and McAndrew will be satisfied in marginalizing her and the office she currently holds.
Here’s the thing that Mantura and Ange forget: THEY ARE NOT MONARCHS!
Like it or not, Kantner was democratically elected by the people of Schuylkill County to do a very specific job. They chose her to be the county’s fiscal watchdog. It is her function as the controller to question decisions and go through the books with a fine toothed comb to ensure that the taxpayer’s dollars aren’t being wasted. Party politics aside, Kantner has done a remarkable job in checking Mantura and Ange’s executive power. For them to now try to scale back that operation is not only against the law, but is against the very essence of the republican form of government.
As much as I dislike Kantner, I will not have her marginalized as an elected official merely because she ruffled some of the wrong feathers. Schuylkill County will not be turned into a totalitarian regime right under my nose and that is exactly where we are heading. This recent power grab by Gallagher and McAndrew cannot go unnoticed or unpunished. Their power needs to checked. Since we have a spaghetti-spined minority commissioner who is content to keep the seat warm for the next guy for the next three years, we need Melinda Kantner. Yeah, she may be a bit crazy, but a crazy advocate is better than no advocate at all.