A judge has completely thrown out a lawsuit brought by the Bucks County Coroner against all three Bucks County Commissioners, who oversee her funding.
“Today is the day I can finally report on the close of a case that wasted too much time, too much money and too much precious attention that could have been diverted elsewhere over the last 18 months,” County Solicitor Joe Khan announced at the Board of Commissioners meeting on Wednesday.
Senior Judge Emanual A. Bertin, an out-of-county judge appointed to the case, had previously tossed most of the lawsuit when he dismissed three counts that sought court intervention in the 2021 budget process. “It is the Commissioners’ sole responsibility, without interference or monitoring by the courts, to set budgets and deal with the demands of departments within County government,” the judge explained earlier this year. “The courts have nothing to do with this.”
On Tuesday, following a bench trial on the sole remaining count of the complaint, the judge issued an order dismissing with prejudice the Coroner’s baseless claim that, with respect to the Coroner’s 2021 funding, the Commissioners’ budget vote in December 2020 violated the Pennsylvania Sunshine Act.
The Sunshine Act ensures government bodies work transparently when enacting policy, requiring that boards like the Bucks County Board of Commissioners conduct public meetings for votes on such measures, including budgets. As required by law, like all county budgets, the 2021 budget was approved Dec. 16, 2020, at a public meeting during which members of the public, including the Coroner, were allowed to provide public comment. After hearing testimony from each of the Commissioners, and the Coroner herself, Judge Bertin concluded that there was no evidence of such meetings being “secret,” as alleged in the Coroner’s complaint.
“It was no surprise that the judge found the Commissioners’ testimony to be credible and, in his words, ‘sincere,’” Khan said.
Additional hearings in the case scheduled to take place over the next two weeks have been canceled.
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