Commissioner cleared of charges

Chairman calls COVID-19 rules ‘crippling’

By OWEN WALSH
Posted 7/21/20

HONESDALE, PA — At a July 16 meeting, Wayne County Commissioners Brian Smith and Jocelyn Cramer spoke in defense of the board’s third commissioner, Joe Adams, who has been facing …

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Commissioner cleared of charges

Chairman calls COVID-19 rules ‘crippling’

Posted

HONESDALE, PA — At a July 16 meeting, Wayne County Commissioners Brian Smith and Jocelyn Cramer spoke in defense of the board’s third commissioner, Joe Adams, who has been facing criticism and scrutiny from the public for more than a month. 

After Honesdale residents held a Black Lives Matter protest on June 4, some accused Adams of violating PA’s official oppression statute. The charges are rooted in allegations that Adams used his influence as an official to pressure local news outlet Wayne Pike News to take down a story about the protest from its website. These allegations were made public via an online blog written by Honesdale resident and business owner Dave Harvey.

On Thursday, Smith announced that after an investigation by the Wayne County Detectives, District Attorney A.G. Howell determined that Adams did not violate the official oppression statute. The DA released the same information a day later.

“After an investigation... it was determined that Mr. Adams did not make demands upon the news media or use his position to influence the news media,” Howell said in a statement. “It appeared the actions of Mr. Adams were out of genuine concern for the safety of the people and property of the community and the final decision to remove a story was made by the news media. This office has declined to take any further action.”

Smith then praised Adams as a public servant, pointing out his work organizing the Wayne County Emergency Food Relief Fund, which helped feed residents during the early weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic, along with several other charitable events that Adams has been involved in.

“Mr. Adams is a professional person in our community who has gone above and beyond anybody else that I can name trying to help people,” Smith said. “I’m very proud to sit alongside Mr. Adams as a commissioner.”

Cramer also spoke in support of Adams, saying that in addition to donating money, he “rolls up sleeves” and gives “an awful lot of work and an awful lot of time” to the community.

At the end of the meeting, Smith addressed the recent COVID-19 restrictions that Gov. Tom Wolf has put into place amid the rising number of positive cases. State officials have concluded that another surge is underway and are warning that it could be worse than the first. PA counted more than 1,000 new cases on the day of the commissioner’s meeting. The governor’s new restrictions reduced restaurants’ operating capacity from 50 percent to 25 percent for indoor dining. Alcohol consumption is now only allowed when served with meals. Indoor gatherings are limited to 25 people, and outdoor gatherings are limited to 250 people.

Smith called these restrictions “crippling” for local businesses, specifically naming resorts like Woodloch Resort, The Settlers Inn and Cove Haven resorts. Smith argued that Wayne County should be differentiated from densely “high-flow” urban areas where the virus is spreading more rapidly. Since moving into the governor’s green phase of reopening on June 12, Wayne County has seen 22 new positive cases of the virus.

“We cannot just sit by and watch these businesses shut down because there are places where numbers are increasing, because here our numbers are not increasing,” Smith said. “We ask the governor to please be respectful of those places [that] are taking this seriously and doing the right thing, because we want our businesses to survive."

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