Washington County voters to decide if they want to change entire structure of local government

WASHINGTON, Pa. — Voters in Washington County are voting whether to form a Government Study Commission. If passed, the commission would consider whether to adopt a home rule charter. Seven counties in Pennsylvania have home rule charters, which means they design their own form of government.

Commissioners Larry Maggi and Diana Irey Vaughan passed an ordinance to put this question on the ballot. Commissioner Nick Sherman voted against it.

“Tomorrow is a government study. That is what the people are voting for. The voters have a choice, yes or no,” Commissioner Larry Maggi said. “It’s a referendum. It’s whether or not to study our current form of government. "

Commissioner Diana Irey Vaughan told Channel 11, “We look at Peter’s Township, which is a home rule township in Washington County. Does very well. I think there are all kinds and forms of government we could consider. It’s always good to take a look at what you’re doing and see if we can do it better.”

Commissioner Nick Sherman cited his time working in Allegheny County as one of the reasons he’s against Home Rule Charters. He said he doesn’t agree with a commission to study a form of government he’s against. “One of the biggest reasons is you can’t balance the budget and you have and need to increase taxes. I feel we in Washington County have done a great job holding the line on our taxes, great job balancing the budget.”

The chairman of the Washington County Republican Party, Dave Ball, tells Channel 11 he believes this is a vote to get rid of the row offices.

“Only six of the state’s 67 counties have adapted Home Rule in the 50 years the option has been available. There is a good reason why. It does not work. With either an elected County Executive or a hired County Manager (Luzerne County is currently hiring one for $185,000 a year), power is concentrated in one person. The result is increased cost and nepotism. All of the Home Rule Counties have tax rates significantly higher than Washington County. Without the elected Row Offices, important checks and balances on the judiciary and executive branches cease to exist.”

The ballot will include 51 candidates who are running to be on the Government Study Commission. Voters will need to vote for 11 of the candidates. Commissioners say they recognize that having the candidates on the ballot before the commission is even passed is confusing, but it is what the state requires.