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The Lancaster County Development Corp. is responsible for bringing new business to Lancaster County. It has been outstandingly successful under the leadership of Keith Tunnell over the last seven years, bringing in $150 million in new business and 2,200 new jobs in the last year alone. It is worthy of nothing but thanks and praise from the citizens of Lancaster County.
LCEDC is organized as a 501(c)4 corporation with its own board of directors and a contract with Lancaster County for payroll services so LCEDC employees can participate in the same health and retirement plans as county employees. Many economic development organizations throughout the state are organized this way, with payroll, health and retirement services provided by the sponsoring governmental organization.
Recently, I discovered to my amazement that for the last year or more, County Council has been asserting that LCEDC is actually a county department and that its employees actually work for the county and report to County Administrator Steve Willis. This utterly nonsensical assertion is based solely on the fact that the county provides payroll, health and retirement benefits to LCEDC and ignores both the existing 501(c)4 corporation and the contract with the county. It turns out that Lancaster County Council has actually been assigning projects to LCEDC employees and trying to direct how they perform their duties. This conduct would be illegal even if LCEDC were a county department, which it is not. Under the council/administrator form of government, council members are not allowed to directly supervise employees; all contact between council and employees is supposed to flow through the administrator.
How LCEDC has been able to function so well while undergoing this sort of harassment is a mystery to me and a tribute to LCEDC employees and management. Lancaster County citizens need to stop this egregious conduct on the part of County Council at once.
This sort of highly destructive behavior is not new to County Council. Two years ago, we had a landfill, followed by a three-year argument about B3 zoning, arbitrary dismissal of the longtime planning director, prosecution and loss of an employee lawsuit at a cost of $2 million, removal of most of the ability of the Planning Commission to do its job and the declaration that the much-needed B3 reform is now “off the table.”
The appropriate tool to accomplish this objective is available Nov. 6 in the form of an election. We need different people on County Council.