To the editor: At the April 10 public meeting of the Northumberland County commissioners, during one of his increasingly common public tirades, Commissioner Vinny Clausi referenced my previously published open letter to county citizens regarding the circumstances surrounding Mr. Clausi's destruction of his county-owned computer hard drive. He also stated that in the week preceding that meeting, our former IT director, David Fisher, had given deposition testimony that showed that I was "totally wrong" in my prior statement. He went on to say, "you were out of order and as an attorney you should be ashamed, ashamed and embarrassed."

I have now reviewed Mr. Fisher's sworn deposition testimony, which was provided under subpoena in the pending lawsuit against the county brought by two of its former sheriff's deputies. Contrary to Mr. Clausi's claims, the testimony given by Mr. Fisher is entirely consistent with the public statement I released regarding this matter.

Normally, when Mr. Clausi opens his mouth, he creates lawsuits and liabilities for our county. In this case, however, he has created an opportunity. He claims the deposition testimony says one thing, and I say it says the exact opposite. One of us has to be lying. With an official transcript of the deposition now available, we have the means of showing you who is lying and who is telling the truth.

I am publicly challenging both of my fellow commissioners to agree to release this transcript to the public and press. You can then determine for yourselves who is being honest with you about your county, and who is not. I predict that neither of them will agree to this kind of transparency. Do not be fooled when they claim they cannot release it due to it being part of a pending litigation. There is no risk to our county's legal position by disclosing this. The other side in the litigation arranged for the deposition and already has the information contained in it.

There is another, more important, reason that the public should see Mr. Fisher's transcript. It consists of more than 150 pages of sworn testimony depicting a commissioners' office that is often characterized by complete disregard for the rule of law, misuse of county assets and intimidation tactics, including threats of physical violence. It describes practices that you should expect from a common street thug and his band of toadies, not what you should expect from your county officials. All three of your current county commissioners, as well as other high-level county officials and their alleged statements and actions, are referenced in the testimony. I am fine with releasing it to the public.

Right now, you are being inundated in the press with claims of corruption, decay and mismanagement in our county prison. This is a self-serving diversion tactic that we have seen Mr. Clausi use before. He is using it now in the hope of creating enough of a frenzy that we are fooled into plunging this county headlong into crippling debt for a new prison, rather than first planning to minimize our need for traditional incarceration as a corrections tool, and addressing prison staffing issues in a rational manner. Before you fall prey to these tactics, read Mr. Fisher's deposition and compare it to the statements made by Mr. Clausi. Then decide if you can trust anything that comes out of his mouth.

Mr. Clausi often ends his comments in the press with his catchphrase "stay tuned." This is a decidedly appropriate phrase for him, as he wants you to passively sit back and tune in while he and a pandering press spoon-feed you his distorted and dysfunctional version of county government. It somewhat resembles a cheesy, third-rate soap opera, complete with impassioned bursts of anger, emotional sobbing and implausible plot twists.

I, on the other hand, will conclude by encouraging you to "stay alert" and "stay involved" in your county government. It's your money, your services, your community and your children's future. With that in mind, I remind you that the next public meeting of the county commissioners is at 1 p.m. today. Please also mark your calendars for 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 10, when we will hold the last scheduled night meeting for this year.

Sincerely,

Richard J. Shoch

Northumberland County Commissioner