The League of Women Voters held a debate for the six Luzerne County Controller candidates at Wilkes College last night. Pictured from left to right are Bob Morgan (D), Walter Griffith (R), Bob Sipniewski (R), Edd Brominski (R), Alice Coffman (R), and NandaPalissery (R). About 35 people attended the debate, although we don't believe more than a handful were persuadable voters.
The candidates were allowed two minutes to offer an opening statement and two minutes to close. They were asked a series eight questions. Each candidate was given one minute to answer.
The questions ranged from the candidates views on nepotism (all were against it) to their first priority in office to "do you intend to spend 8 hours a day in the office" to the backlog of audits.
Here's what we came away with from the debate. Morgan thinks the controller's office still uses DOS computers from the 1970s, Griffith has read the county code from cover to cover, Sipniewski hates lawyers, Brominski got fired for the assessors office, Alice Coffman is an accountant, and Palissery doesn't look like a "good ol' boy."
All of the candidates seemed to be well aware of the fact that there is a mess not only in the controller's office, but in county government in general. All of the candidates stressed different startegy and tactics to correct the problems which have plagued county government over the past few years.
Palissery stressed the better use of personnel in the controller's office and blamed many of the problems on the lack of leadership in the office. He pointed out that since Maryann Petrilla left the controller's office to become county commissioner, Governor Rendell has failed to appoint a replacement. Palissery also stressed his level of commitment to the job and pledged select weekend and week night controller office hours to allow the public better access.
Coffman stressed time and again that the expertise she has gained as a Certified Public Accountant for the last eighteen years make her uniquely qualified for the job. She also portrayed herself as a workaholic who would dedicate long hours to the job. In a pledge which perked up our ears, she pledged to create a controller's blog. (Alice, if you need Buzz's assistance, you can have him, but the Univac 3000 stays here.)
Brominski stressed his years as a Luzerne County Commissioner and his years in the Luzerne County assessment office. We are unclear as to why he left that office, but he seemed to imply he was fired for being a whistle blower.
We were impressed by Sipniewski's forceful style, but we were also concerned that he may possess some of the detriments which hurt Steve Flood's cause when he held the office, primarily a confrontation nature. Sipniewski was by far the most confrontational of the bunch, attacking endorsed Republican Palissery on at least two occasions.
Giffith seems to have done his homework. He had with him a copy of the county code and a number of other documents. Griffith pledge to be in the office everyday from 8:30 to 5. He also took the strongest stand on nepotism, saying he wouldn't hire anyone in the controller's office who was related to or friends with anyone currently working for the county. Griffith also said he would either hire a solicitor from outside the county or a solicitor who had absolutely no ties county government or any existing solicitorships.
Morgan stressed the need to bring the office up to date. He said that the software system currently used in the controller's office is very out dated. He was also concerned about a lack of leadership in the office. He said his 20 years in the financial community gave him the qualities to be a good controller.
No fists were thrown, but the soundbite of the night came from Palissery. When Sipniewski implied that Palissery was part of the "good ol' boy network," Palissery, who emigrated from India at the age of two, stood up and said, "Do I look anything like a good ol' boy? I don't think so."
Palissery also had the runner up soundbite line. After hearing Coffman state that her expertise was accounting and that she would probably electrocute herself changing an electrical outlet in Stark Learning Center, Palissery quipped, "with my engineering degree, I could change that electrical circuit."
Stay tuned when OVC plays twenty questions with the controller candidates starting May 1st. (Well not actually twenty but you get the point.)