PF&BC struggles to assemble a quorum

By Bob Frye Capital Correspondent

Harrisburg — Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission meetings
do not, as a general rule, attract big crowds, like, say, Game
Commission gatherings do.

The agency’s July meeting was especially short on bodies,
though. And this time, the commission could have paid a heavy
price.

The commission’s board — which sets policies such as seasons
and tackle regulations — is supposed to be made up of 10 members.
For the last few months, it’s been operating with just eight.

The death of Commissioner Leon Reed and the earlier retirement
of Commissioner Rozell Stidd account for the vacancies.

While not ideal, having eight commissioners is still OK, as the
board needs just six to be able to conduct business.

At the board’s July meeting, though, just five commissioners
were physically at the meeting.

The board was still able to act because Paul Mahon, a
commissioner from Scranton who was unable to be in Harrisburg
because of health reasons, and Commissioner Sam Concilla took part
in the meeting via phone.

A third commissioner, Ross Huhn of Saltsburg, tried to do the
same, but couldn’t get through the whole meeting, still weak from
the effects of a stroke.

The situation pointed out how precarious is the board’s — and
the agency’s — situation, though.

“We have electric phones, so we were one power outage away from
not having a quorum,” said commission press secretary Dan
Tredinnick.

Things may get worse before they get better, too.

The term of commissioner Ted Keir of Bradford County expired
April 15 of this year. The rules allow him to serve an additional
six months while a search for a successor goes on, but he’ll be
gone by mid-October.

The terms of two other commissioners, Mahon and Gary Pflugfelder
of Cumberland County, expire Feb. 9.

Huhn, 78, has represented District 2 for more than 25 years. His
current appointment runs through July of 2011, but he’s said in the
past that he did not expect to serve out that whole term.

If he leaves sooner than expected for health reasons, though,
the board will have yet another vacancy.

The process of finding replacements is ongoing, but slow. Gov.
Ed Rendell has twice nominated Somerset County man Len Lichvar to
fill Stidd’s District 4 seat, but state Sen. Robert Jubelirer, a
Blair County Republican, has effectively blocked that and may have
killed it altogether.

If Rendell does not resubmit Lichvar’s name again, the
governor’s Advisory Council for Hunting, Fishing and Conservation
may start interviewing people for that seat all over again, said
Robb Miller, director of the council.

Council members have already scheduled interviews for Reed’s
District 7 seat and Kier’s District 5 seat, but the work of getting
someone nominated by the governor and confirmed by the Senate could
take months, Miller said.

Given all that, the commission is bracing itself for some wide
changes. Agency staff unveiled a draft of a handbook for new
commissioners at the agency’s July meeting. It is an attempt to
outline, in a standard format, the duties of commissioners,
Tredinnick said.

In years past, when the board might get one new member every few
years, the job of explaining how the agency works was done
informally and face to face. If the look of the board may change
drastically all at once, there’s a need for something more formal
in place, Tredinnick added.

“Realistically, we could be down five commissioners shortly. We
could have half of the board be new commissioners,” he said.

The sitting commissioners have discussed getting together in
September to review suggested changes to the commissioner handbook.
A final version could get formal approval in October or
January.

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