Burns says vital constituent service conduit restored by governor

Silent reversal by administration validates representatives’ position

EBENSBURG, April 14 – Within days of going public with the plight of Lilly resident Chuck Onder, state Rep. Frank Burns, D-Cambria, said the governor’s office has reversed field and silently restored a group of House Democrats’ ability to use legislative liaisons to tackle constituent service issues.

Onder had gone 10 days without hearing from the Department of Environmental Protection on a creek flooding issue after Burns’ office forwarded Onder’s request for help March 28. Burns felt the delay proved the group’s contention that instructions to route such requests through the governor’s office was punitive, as all 11 affected legislators voted last month for a Republican bill to end the months-long 2015-16 budget impasse.

"We found out Tuesday that DEP is interested in holding a conference call with Mr. Onder, which my office is in the process of arranging," Burns said. "While I do not like what happened and firmly believe we deserve an explanation and apology – our assertions were not ‘ridiculous’ as repeatedly claimed by the governor’s press secretary – it does not look like anyone in the administration is willing to ‘man up’ and admit making a mistake.

"However, I think anyone who reads between the lines will be able to figure out who was telling the truth and who wasn’t. The governor’s office mysteriously instituted a change – then, after it all became public – just as mysteriously changed things back."

Burns credited the local and statewide media for recognizing the importance of the story and faithfully reporting both sides of the issue, leaving the public to reach its own conclusions.

"I hope something like this never happens again, where constituents are viewed by the administration as chips in some game of high-stakes political poker," Burns said. "These citizens want, deserve and pay for the same types of government service as everyone else. It’s a relief that they again have access to the departmental experts who can help them resolve problems quickly and efficiently."