The county freeholder who opposes democracy
Freeholder Richard Vohden never held public office before becoming the hand-picked candidate of county insiders in 2010. He should never have survived the primary for freeholder, but for the steadfastness of his very honorable running mate, who both underwrote the campaign and took considerable damage on Vohden's behalf.
Without the guidance of that running mate, Vohden fell under the influence of two of the county's most accomplished operators -- Freeholder Richard Zeoli and County Administrator John Eskilson. With Vohden's running mate gone, Zeoli became the "big man" on the Freeholder Board. As a county employee, Eskilson had always worked for the Freeholders, but with Zeoli, they formed a partnership. Zeoli's wife found employment at Eskilson's wife's company. They began making deals, one of which -- the solar deal -- haunts Sussex County to this day.
After Zeoli moved to Philadelphia and decided it was too far a commute to run for re-election, Eskilson found that he could convince those remaining board members to let him run the show. Gone were the days of Freeholders like Oroho, Wirths, Chiusano, Parrott, Vetrano, and Zellman. In Vohden, John Eskilson found someone who not only would believe his bullshit, he would preach it. And to this day, he does.
Reporter Vera Olinski of the Advertiser News ran a story on March 21, 2016, that covered the recent meeting of the Freeholder Board at which, and we quote:
"Freeholder Richard A. Vohden read portions of the administrative code aloud to the board. Vohden said he wanted the administrator to do his job and for freeholders to only be liaisons, including on the Engineering Committee."
It appears that Vohden mistakes the administrative code for the State Constitution. Heck, he mistakes it for the Constitution of the United States of America.
Vohden, who has no legal background that we are aware of, fails to understand that the Freeholder Board is the Legislative AND Executive branch for Sussex County. It is the same in most counties although, in a few, they have decided to have an ELECTED County Executive. In those counties, the Freeholder Board is the Legislative branch only.
In no county -- anywhere in America -- is an UNELECTED BUREAUCRAT the Executive and Legislative branches of government, with the elected members merely serving as his "liaisons" to various parts of the bureaucracy. That's just undemocratic -- and it is also deeply authoritarian. It is the philosophical redux of the Fuhrer Principle.
"The Führerprinzip was not invented by the Nazis. Hermann Graf Keyserling, an ethnically German philosopher from Estonia, was the first to use the term Führerprinzip. One of Keyserling's central claims was that certain 'gifted individuals' were 'born to rule' on the basis of Social Darwinism.
The ideology of the Führerprinzip sees each organization as a hierarchy of leaders, where every leader (Führer, in German) has absolute responsibility in his own area, demands absolute obedience from those below him and answers only to his superiors. This required obedience and loyalty even over concerns of right and wrong.
...This principle became the law of the National Socialist German Worker's Party (Nazi Party) and the SS and was later transferred to the whole German society once the Nazis took power. Appointed mayors replaced elected local governments. Schools lost elected parents' councils and faculty advisory boards, with all authority being put in the headmaster's hands. The Nazis suppressed associations and unions with elected leaders, putting in their place mandatory associations with appointed leaders.
In practice, the selection of unsuitable candidates often led to micromanagement and commonly to an inability to formulate coherent policy... Rules tended to become oral rather than written."
With Vohden and at least seven others having announced or considering a run for the two freeholder seats up this year, a discussion on how each of them view the governing relationship between the elected Freeholder Board and the appointed county bureaucracy is important. We will be reaching out to each candidate to get their thoughts.
And while we are at it, we would like to urge two advocates of reform not on that list of seven to consider adding their voices to this election: Independent Harvey Roseff and Democrat Bill Weightman. Both would elevate the level of discourse and add to the debate.