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Monday, February 19, 2018

GPA Chair Billed NorCo $11,950 to Check Work Done By Third Party Engineer

John Brown and Shawn Langen (right)
pose by "Bridge Closed" sign. Great
optics for the P3 Bridge repair project.   
Is the Northampton County General Purpose Authority (GPA) a runaway train, a shadow government operating behind the scenes to enable an Executive to do an end-run around Council? Though Chair Shawn Langen adamantly denies this is what is going on, it now appears that former Executive John Brown was using this authority to promote projects he knew that Council, the County's elected governing body, would question. Like a new jail at Gracedale. Or his own re-election.

The GPA has stonewalled several right-to-know requests, but has begun providing partial responses. The layers of this onion have begun to peel away. It is now clear that Brown was using the GPA as a conduit for capital projects, and without regard to the wishes of Council or the best interests of the County.

Through the GPA, he hired the same controversial PR firm that had been challenged in two lawsuits. At the suggestion of Solicitor John Lushic, the GPA authorized Chair Shawn Langen to begin billing the County, even though this highly unusual arrangement was never authorized by Council. Brown used GPA solicitor John Lushis to provide legal advice on matters having nothing to do with the GPA, like how to skirt Upper Nazareth's zoning ordinance. Through the GPA, Brown paid Lushis an obscene amount of money.

While using GPA Solicitor to advise him on matters having nothing to do with the GPA, Brown had then County Solicitor Ryan Durkin advise the GPA on the myriad of suits it could file against the County should the incoming administration decide to back out of a public-private partnership agreement for the repair or replacement of 33 bridges.

What is the GPA anyway?

It was first established by Northampton County Council on May 6, 1999, pursuant to the Municipality Authorities Act. It initially served as a conduit for former Executive Glenn Reibman's controversial $111 million multi-purpose bond. Over the years, it has been a conduit for the issuance of both taxable and tax exempt bonds to help finance public and private projects, mostly with hospitals and universities. It also administers the NorCo Loan and Development Fund and the Community Investment Partnership Program Revolving Loan Fund. But it may exercise any powers authorized by the Municipality Authorities Act. In 2016, became the lead agency involved in a plan to refurbish or replace 33 county-owned bridges at a cost of $38 million, with the work being done by Kriger Construction. The lack of transparency surrounding this project, which might actually be very beneficial to the County, is when the problems began.

Two people largely responsible. The first is Executive John Brown, who never understood that county government is much different than a corporate boardroom. The second person at fault is GPA Solicitor John Lushis, who has been funneling large bills to the county through the GPA. He is a member of the Norris McLaughlin law firm. Another member of that firm, Scott Allinson, is currently on trial in Allentown for political corruption. He was also billing the GPA through that firm.

Brown is gone, but Lushis is still giving legal advice to the GPA.

In his report to County Council on February 15, Executive Lamont McClure summed things up.
"It's my view that GPA historically was an authority that provided a wonderful service for St. Luke's, Lafayette, Lehigh, whoever needed to run large bond issues, and the GPA did that for them. I think they got a little bit away from their mission. But with that said, we've isolated what the problem is. I think we're going to over time deal with that problem. I think it's one problem, and I think it will be taken care of in the near term.

"I'll give you an example. In the P3 process [this refers to a deal to rehab or replace 33 county bridges], the Solicitor prepared documents for the contracts that were executed, and then copyrighted them. So all this stuff is paid for by public money, and the Solicitor's law firm has the copyrights.

"So I think we've gotten a little bit beyond the GPA's mission. It's a thing that will not be corrected overnight, but it will get corrected."
He started by appointing Paul Anthony and Frank Pintabone to the GPA. Peg Ferraro, herself a member of that Board, voted No to Pintabone

Today, I'm going to share the bills that Shawn Langen has  provided to the County. From what I'm told, they remain unpaid. Langen made the mistake of submitting his bills at the end of the year, as John Brown was going out the door.

When he was designated in January 2017 as the GPA person who would be checking the work done by a third party engineer that is already checking the work done on the bridge project, Langen said "It's our project," said Langen. "My fear is that if somebody is not watching the third party engineer, I don't want anything to slip through the cracks." Langen added that his costs "would be fully reimbursed by the County," and Lushis said there would be a letter agreement with the County authorizing the payment of $200 per hour.

Whether that agreement actually exists is unknown.

Northampton County Council approved no such agreement. Council member Peg Ferraro, who sits on GPA, was MIA when this appointment was made.

Though Langen has told me that the enabling legislation requires review by someone from outside the county, no one gave that as a reason for hiring him. 

This came at a fortuitous time for Langen, whose employment with Arcadia Development had ended.

Between February and December, Langen charged the County $11,950 for "P3 oversight." This oversight consisted of lengthy meeting with Lushis, review of Lushis bills and even for time spent delivering papers. He charged for letters to Lower Mount Bethel residents, something that really should come from their elected representatives or county workers.

Langen told me he's willing to donate this money to the Third Street Alliance, but only made this pledge after it was learned that he was charging the County.

Tomorrow, I'll tell you how much Lushis has charged the County over the past two years. It makes the Langen bill look like a pittance and is not even complete.

Below are links to each invoice submitted by Langen. I'm a great believer in participatory journalism, and am laying it all out there 

https://www.scribd.com/document/371807636/Langen-Invoices-to-NorCo-GPA-Feb-March-2017

https://www.scribd.com/document/371807796/Langen-Invoices-to-NorCo-GPA-April-May-2017

https://www.scribd.com/document/371807898/Langen-Invoices-to-NorCo-GPA-June-2017

https://www.scribd.com/document/371807963/Langen-Invoices-to-NorCo-GPA-Jul-2017

https://www.scribd.com/document/371808047/Langen-Invoices-to-NorCo-GPA-Aug-2017

https://www.scribd.com/document/371808154/Langen-Invoices-to-NorCo-GPA-Sep-2017

https://www.scribd.com/document/371808269/Langen-Invoices-to-NorCo-GPA-Oct-2017

https://www.scribd.com/document/371808619/Langen-Invoices-to-NorCo-GPA-Nov-2017-part-1

https://www.scribd.com/document/371808721/Langen-Invoices-to-NorCo-GPA-Dec-2017

Friday, February 16, 2018

NorCo Paid $3,390 For Lushis Firm Copyrights at GPA

Earlier this week, I told you that Northampton County's General Purpose Authority (GPA) Solicitor John Lushis is the attorney who represents Northampton County's General Purpose Authority (GPA) incredibly copyrighting six agreements he's prepared for the GPA. According to the U.S. Copyright office, These documents were all registered on 10/5/17 under the following copyright numbers: TX0008456750; TX0008456708; TX0008456702; TX0008456704; TX0008456707; and TX0008456700.

Lushis has made these documents the property of the law firm Norris, McLaughlin and Marcus.

I now have the bills that Lushis's firm submitted to the County in 2016 and 2017.

I'll be reporting on them this Monday, but thought you'd like to know that Norris, McLaughlin and Marcus.actually charged the county for the cost of registering these copyrights.

According to invoice #10797926, the county was billed $3,390 to file six copyright applications on 10/5/17.

A copyright application costs between $35-55 

Oh yeah, this story is copyrighted, so watch out! ©

NorCo Council Revokes $10 Million DaVinci Grant

By a 7-2 vote, NorCo Council voted last night to revoke a $10 million grant of hotel taxes to the DaVinci Science Center proposed in Easton. The ordinance passed by a lame duck Council in December would have shackled the County with annual payments of $250,000 over the next 40 years.

Earlier in the evening, when Human Services administrators complained about shortfalls in state funding for mental health, John Cusick complained that the state was more interested in subsidizing bug farms. And when the DaVinci Center came up for a vote, e added that the plan was completely changed six weeks after the grant was approved. He suggested that DaVinci Executive Director Lin Erickson had not been forthright, and reminded everyone that he failed to tell Council about a competing aquarium being considered in Monroe County.

Erickson herself was absent. Her continued presence at Council meetings and repetitive pitches were beginning to annoy some council members.

Instead of Erickson, Council heard from Easton Mayor Sal Panto and DaVinci trustee Jane Ervin. They both seemed to recognize that the grant was going to be pulled but asked council to keep an open mind when a new pitch for funding is made at a March 1 committee meeting.

"Be bold, think big," urged Ervin.

"Exercise caution, fiscal prudence," countered Cusick.

"I'm not going to hostage the county for 40 years," said Lori Vargo Heffner.But she added that neither she nor anyone on Council is anti-Easton and is willing to listen to the March 1 proposal. Ron Heckman said that if it were up to him, he'd move county offices downtown.

Even Bob Werner, who represents Easton on Council, said that a grant that goes on for 40 years is too much. But he still voted against revoking the ordinance. Peg Ferraro, who also voted No to revocation, was most concerned that this year's $250,000 go into DaVinci's coffers.

That depends on what Council approves.

Bucky Szulborski Appointed NorCo Controller

Richard "Bucky" Szulborski, who served on Bethlehem City Council for 12 years before voluntarily stepping down in 1995, was appointed  NorCo Controller last night in a 6-2-1 vote by County Council. Steve Barron resigned in January after being confirmed as Fiscal Affairs Director.

Voting for Szuloborski were Ken Kraft, Ron Heckman, Tara Zrinski, Bill McGee, Lori Vargo Heffner and Peg Ferraro. Voting  No were John Cusick and Bob Werner. Matt Dietz abstained.

Cusick, a Republican had urged Council to vote for Hayden Phillips. But other than Matt Dietz, he was unable to attract any support. Cusick, Dietz and Phillips are all Republicans.

Szulborski is a Democrat.

Dietz abstained in the vote for Szulborski, primarily because he said he would have liked to have heard from all three candidates. One of those candidates was at last night's meeting and asked to speak, but he made his request after courtesy of the floor was over.

Though Werner never explained his No vote,it may be the result of an apparent Sunshine Act violation on January 31, when the Personnel Committee met to review the applications without advertising. Council President Ken Kraft took responsibility for this error at Wednesday's Personnel Committee, where the applications were reviewed again in public, and the public was afforded two opportunities to speak.     

Szulborski has an extensive record of community service to various organizations, including Camelot for Children, the Catholic Youth Organization, the Sun Inn Preservation Association, the Bethlehem Recreation Commission, the Bethlehem Fine Arts Commission and the Bethlehem Area Public Library Board.

Szulborski told Council that he does engage in real estate sales on a part-time basis on evenings and weekends. He said he has no interest in running for the job when his term expires in two years.

After Jerry Seyfried had imparted his pearls of wisdom to Council (see below), Szulborski told me that you if you cut the edges off of pills, you remove the side effects.

It's County Executive Night in NorCo!


They say that if two former county executives touch each other, the universe as we know it will cease to exist. But that did not happen last night when. by strange coincidence, three former county executives and current Executive Lamont McClure converged in NorCo Council's meeting room. From left to right, they include current Exec Lamont McClure, former NorCo Exec Glenn Reibman, former NorCo Exec Gerald E. "Jerry" Seyfried, and former Lehigh County Executive Jane Ervin.

McClure was smart enough to tap two former Executives very familiar with Northampton County, to serve on different boards. Glenn, looking trim and fit as always, was unanimously confirmed to the Airport Authority. Jerry, who made sure everyone knew he was sporting an Eagles' jacket, was unanimously appointed to the retirement (pension) board. Jane Ervin, looking beautiful as always, was at Council to make a pitch for the DaVinci Science Center.


Seyfried, who was sporting a $19 oilskin outback hat in a poor imitation of me, decided to impart some pearls of wisdom to the new County Council that he's gleaned in his 70 plus years of existence on Planet Earth."Never ever take a sleeping pill and a laxative at the same time."

Good to know.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

NorCo Parents Want Voting Out of Schools

Korry Franke
Tonight, Northampton County Council is expected to vote on five members of the Elections Commission. Executive Lamont McClure has nominated Democrats Kathy Fox, Deb Hunter and George Treisner as well as Republicans Mary Diggs and Maude Hornik to serve for two-year terms. A group of citizens want the Elections Commission to stop conducting elections at local schools, and were at last night's Personnel Committee to insist that Elections Commissioners pledge to move polling places out of schools as a condition of their appointment. They are especially concerned about voting at the Butz Elementary School in Bushkill Township, and are circulating an online petition that has already garnered 1,792 signatures. Though McClure has tweeted that he supports moving the polling place at this school, he has declined to insist that Commissioners make such a promise. 

Korry Franke was upset that McClure failed to explain in detail the criteria he used to choose commissioners. "The most important criteria we used was hope," tweeted McClure. "The hope that these volunteers would agree to accept the appointment and serve."

Franke called this answer "unacceptable and irresponsible." He called on Council to require nominees to state whether they agree that voting at schools creates an additional risk to children. He wants them to agree to use schools as an election site only if there is no acceptable alternative. Finally, he wants Commissioners to agree to move voting from Butz Elementary because the Bushkill Volunteer Fire Co. has agreed to make its facility available. Franke said that McClure should be relying on more than mere hope. "Otherwise, we're left to wonder whether these selections might have been made, perhaps,out of personal or party loyalty," he said in a prepared statement. He added that "the outdated practice of using schools as polling places needs to end."

McClure made no attempt to defend himself. So let me. As I told Franke at the meeting, he needs to read the Home Rule Charter. If he did, he'd know that Executive McClure has very little discretion with these nominations. The Executive receives three names from the party that gets the greatest number of votes, and two names from the party having the second highest vote total. He can make his own nominations only if the party chairs refuse to provide him with a list. It is completely political because that is what the Charter provides.

I happen to believe the Charter is wrong, and this is one of the many reasons why I advocated a home rule charter study. But we're stuck with it.

One of the names that McClure received, Maude Hornick, happens to be the sister of GOP county chair Lee Snover. I am sure she was selected precisely because of her party loyalty. Another nominee, George Treisner, is a long-time Dem Committeeman. It's all about party loyalty.

Though it's hard for a politician to ignore a petition signed by 1700 people, I see nothing wrong with voting at a public school. I see no public safety issues and in 2007, a Northampton County Court ruled that a school district must make its facilities available for voting.

HS Hoops: Beca v. Central Holy War Looms on Friday Night

I never expected this, but come Friday night, there will be a Holy War between Bethlehem Catholic and Allentown Central Catholic. Not just the boys' teams. Not just the girls' teams. Both teams. On the first Friday of Lent, no less. In a double header, The Vikettes will face the Hawkettes at Bethlehem's Liberty gym for the East Penn Conference championship at 6 pm. The Vikings and Hawks will follow at 8 pm.

Both Vikettes and Vikings won their semifinal battles on Wednesday night at Liberty. The Vikettes defeated Freedom, 49-32, while the Central boys squeaked by East Stroudsburg South's Cavaliers, 54-51.

There was nothing cavalier about the way East Stroudsburg South played. They are in many ways a mirror image of Central, relying on a fierce defense and guard-oriented offense. Central Point Guard Jay Vaughan was held to just three points in the first half, but managed to break free and score another 11 in the second. He led the team in scoring with 14. He also had 5 assists and 4 rebounds.

Keyshawn "the beast" Kellman is who saved Central. He scored 5 field goals from inside the paint, and grabbed 12 rebounds. Jordan McChristian, Nick Filchner and Chad Kratzer added 7 points apiece.

The person who was bottled up through the night was the team's leading scorer, Dat Lambert. He was guarded the way he likes to guard others and simply was unable to get open. He took just one shot in the first half, and missed. He had just one field goal during limited action in the second half. But as the game was drawing to a close and the Cavaliers threatened, he was put back in action and sealed the victory for the Vikings by going 6-6 in free throws. He ended the night with 8.

These games had to be a welcome relief for the Vaughan family. Daughter Emily and sons Sam and Jay all play for Central. Most of the games were at the same time, meaning they had to divide them up. Anne and Jeff finally had a chance to watch sons and daughter play in back-to-back games.

They will have the same opportunity on Friday night.

Pope Benedict is picking Becahi to win, but Pope Francis is saying Central-2 over the Hawks. Neither is speaking ex cathedra, so you never know.

The Morning Call's Keith Groller has an excellent recap that includes a great interview with Keeshawn Kellman.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Correction: NorCo Corrections Officer's Death NOT Flu Related

Earlier today, I scared the hell out of a few county employees, including the Executive, when I reported that the flu had claimed the life of a 29 year old corrections officer. But I was mistaken. It turns out that this officer's death, while tragic, had nothing to do with the flu. I apologize for getting it wrong.

I first began receiving reports about this fatality early in the week in the form of anonymous comments posted here. Then today, I was approached by a local attorney who provided me with a copy of a memo that Court administrator Jermaine Greene provided to the entire court, reporting on the death as flu-related  Greene added that a second officer was on life support with flu-related symptoms.

In addition to publishing a story, I emailed administrators at the jail asking that they inform the public as soon as possible as this is a matter of public health.

Less than an hour later, Executive Lamont McClure contacted me to say that, though an officer had passed away, it had nothing to do with the flu. Nor is a second corrections officer on life support as a result of the flu

The officer who passed away is Thomas Michael LeBeau Jr., 29, of Bethlehem Twp. He is a Bloomsburg University graduate.

McClure declined to provide additional details concerning the death.

Though this flu season has been virulent, it has killed no corrections officer.

I apologize again for getting it wrong.

Corrected 10:19 pm.

McClure Nominates Pintabone, Anthony to Embattled GPA

Executive Lamont McClure has nominated two people to serve on Northampton County's embattled General Purpose Authority (GPA).

Paul Anthony, a Bethlehem resident and business manager at IBEW Local 375, has been nominated as a successor to Helene Whitaker, who served on the board for five years. Whitaker asked McClure to remove her from consideration. If conformed, Anthony will serve until 12/31/22.

Frank Pintabone, an Easton landscaper who served as President on Easton's often contentious school board, will fill the vacancy created by the sudden resignation of Neal Koplin and serve until the end of 2019.

GPA Solicitor John Lushis has huffed that the GPA, and only the GPA, can appoint someone to a mid-term vacancy. He relies on a provision in the Municipal Authorities Act under which the authority, and not the municipal governing body, "shall" name someone to the unexpired term.

So they shall. McClure wants them to name Pintabone. Although the imperative "shall" is used in the statute, that is usually construed as permissive and not mandatory unless a contrary intention is manifest. No such contrary intention is manifest. Under the Lushis interpretation, the entire board could resign mid-term, and no one would have the authority to appoint replacements. It's an absurd interpretation. In this case, the best resolution is that the GPA "shall" appoint the choice recommended by Norco Council.

I don't know whether Lushis copyrighted his legal advice.

The other five members of the GPA are Shawn Langen, Mike Dowd, Peg Ferraro, Mark Schiavone and Shawn Donahue.

Fearraro's term expires 12/31/20, but she may be there illegally. She was a member of the governing body that appointed her. Though the law may have changed,the courts at one time frowned on Council members appointing themselves to authorities. The state Supreme Court once said that "there is ‘a virtual unanimity of opinion’ among all reasonable men that it is against public policy for a public official to appoint himself to another public office within his gift ... ."

John Cusick has usually opposed the appointment of Council members and Executives to these boards.

Glenn Reibman Proposed For Airport Authority

Executive Lamont McClure has nominated one of his predecessors, Glenn Reibman, to serve on the airport authority. Reibman was NorCo Executive for two terms. If confirmed by Council, he will serve for the next five years. He will replace Anne Baum, a Capital Blue Cross exec and one of the Lehigh Valley's most prominent women in business. 

Fed Ed Just Convicted Himself

Those of you following the Fed Ed trial know that the U.S. Attorney has rested, and without calling Mike Fleck. I consider that a mistake, but it might be harmless error. FBI agents today played their taped interview with Fed Ed, in which he told numerous very obvious lies. His fatal flaw? Hubris. This Chicago transplant underestimated the FBI and guaranteed his own conviction. You can read Emily Opilo's tweets to see the hole he's dug for himself. If he does testify in his own defense, as his attorney promised, he's going to be torn apart with his taped display of arrogance. There's even a possibility that the feds will call Fleck in rebuttal.

This case is over.

Goin' Off the Deep End

I went off the deep end Tuesday. I had a really good breakfast at Angelo's, an excellent Easton eatery, with a good friend. I had my usual delicious lunch at the courthouse, followed by a taco dinner at Nazareth's Rice 'n Beans, including a side dish of rice 'n beans and lime soda. Then, I had a peanut butter pie from Bethlehem's Vegan Treats as a desert.

That's going off the deep end for me.

Then there's the case of a North Catty man who was going to step out with his wife. But he decided instead to grab a bat that happened to be laying around and beat his wife's brains in.

"I went off the deep end," was his explanation.

His notion of going off the deep end and mine are two different things.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

GPA Lawyer Copyrighted Work Done for NorCo

John Lushis is the attorney who represents Northampton County's General Purpose Authority (GPA). He's the guy who permitted that board to meet in the back room at their very first meeting this year, smack dab in front of County Executive Lamont McClure and Council President Ken Kraft. He actually had the temerity to defend this illegal action when I confronted him. He's the one who has been dragging his feet in responding to my right-to-know requests for his legal bills.

Guess what?

He's been copyrighting the agreements he's prepared for the GPA. According to the U.S. Copyright office, he's copyrighted six documents that he prepared, either as an agent of the GPA or as some sort of super secret stealth Solicitor to former Executive John Brown. These include a Public-Private Partnership Agreement (original and final), P3 Project Administration Agreement (original and final) and P3 License Agreement (original and final). These documents were all registered on 10/5/17 under the following copyright numbers: TX0008456750; TX0008456708; TX0008456702; TX0008456704; TX0008456707; and TX0008456700.

Instead of registering these documents with the GPA or Northampton County, who paid for them, Lushis has made these documents the property of the law firm Norris, McLaughlin and Marcus.

Another attorney who worked at that firm, Scott Allinson, is currently on trial in Allentown for political corruption. 

Lushis obviously intends to benefit financially from the work he did for Northampton County. This would be in addition to the money he was paid as a supposed public servant.

Under the law, work done by an officer or employee of the federal government, when done as part of that person's official duties, is considered to be in the public domain. Though it's possible for state and local government to seek copyrights, public policy prevents their application to "edicts of government." This includes judicial opinions, administrative rulings, legislative enactments, public ordinances and similar official legal documents that have the force of law. (Compendium 313.6(C)(2)).

It's questionable whether these documents are subject to copyright. But assuming that they are, the protected party should be Northampton County, not some law firm in Allentown.

I'm still waiting for the Lushis bills.Maybe they've been copyrighted, too.

Oh yeah, this story is copyrighted, so watch out! ©

15th Congressional District Endorsements Pile Up

Congressional candidate Susan Wild received some publicity yesterday that I'm sure she'd prefer to avoid. She testified for the government in the federal prosecution of Allentown Mayor Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski. She's Allentown's former Solicitor, and handled herself with integrity, but there are those who will blast her as well, usually anonymously.

But she's received a flurry of endorsements that include former Lehigh County Exec Tom Muller and the following current or former members of Allentown City Council: Courtney Robinson, Candida Affa, and Cynthia Mota, Ray O’Connell and David McGuire. She also has the endorsement of the Bobsey twins, State Reps. Pete Schweyer and Mike "Darth Voter" Schlossberg.

Congressional candidate Greg Edwards is supported by Bethlehem City Council member Olga Negron, Common Defense and several left-wing PACs from out of the area.

I am unaware of any endorsements for candidates Bill Leiner or Dave Weidman.

I told you yesterday about the Lehigh Valley Labor Council's endorsement of John Morganelli for Congress. Business agent Ken Kraft pointed out to me the labor Council is actually a collection of the following trade unions: Insulators and Asbestos Local 23; Boilermakers Local 13 Bricklayers; Tilesetters and Cement Masons Local 5; Cement Masons and Plasterers Local 592; Electricians IBEW Local 102; Electricians IBEW Local 375; Elevator Constructors Local 84; Glaziers, Architectural Metal Workers Local 252 DC 21; Heavy and Highway Laborers Local 158; Ironworkers Local 36; Laborers Local 1174; Millwrights Local 1906; Painters Local 1269 DC 21; Plumbers Local 690; Road Sprinkler Fitters Local 669; Roofers and Waterproofers Local 30; Sheet Metal Workers Local 19; Steamfitters Local 420; and Teamsters Local 773.

As for the Republicans, I have no idea what is going on at this moment. I would think that Ryan MacKenzie will have a tough time against Oluympic medalist Marty Nothstein. This might explain why his campaign office sent me a juvenile hit piece aimed at Nothstein. That's something I'd expect from Justin Simmons. Dean Browning was hoping to stand out in a large field of candidates. I think his chances have faded. 

Should Nazareth School Director Step Down?

Should Nazareth School Director Linda McDonald resign? Should a court be asked to remove her? These are questions currently being considered by Nazareth parents who are upset that recently elected school director Linda Director Linda McDonald may have been improperly elected.

McDonald has served on the sometimes contentious school board before, and in various capacities. She's been president and VP . But she resigned, effective January 11, 2016. She told the Board she was moving to Massachusetts at the end of 2015.

At the time of her resignation, she was employed at Essroc as a development analyst. Essroc does have a plant in Massachusetts.

According to an anonymous letter I received over the weekend, McDonald registered to vote in Massachusetts and even voted there in the November 2016 election.

Recently, McDonald found a new job with Air Products as a business support coordinator. Her LinkedIn page indicates she started there in July 2017.

In October 2017, she purchased a home in Upper Nazareth at Westminster Way.  In November 2017, she waged a write-in campaign for school director and won.

But did she reside in the school district for a full year before her election?

Section 322 of the Public School Code provides that a school director must be a citizen, at least 18 years old, of good moral character, and a resident of the school district for at least one year prior to the date of election or appointment. It is questionable whether McDonald meets this residency requirement.

According to my information, she has attended no meetings since her election, but she will be brought in as needed by some of the more senior directors who are unconcerned about whether she was lawfully elected so long as she votes with them.

I have reached out to McDonald but have heard nothing.

The appropriate way to remove McDonald from office is by quo warranto. Only the District Attorney or his designee has such authority.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Boys' Hoops: Allentown Advances to Semi-Final in EPC Tournament

Morning Call senior sports writer Keith Groller is a lucky man. He was at this year's Super Bowl, and had a series of great stories that made me feel like I was there. But he's #alwayswatching. He somehow managed to keep on eye on things here. Tonight, he covered the EPC quarter final between Northampton and Allentown Central Catholic, which was played at Rockne Hall. His excellent story is here, and I am supplementing it with a box score.

It didn't hit me until about an hour after the game was over that I had just watched my grandson play his last game at Rockne Hall.The team will go on to play in the EPC tournament semifinal on Wednesday. Then there will be districts and possibly even states. But this was the last time that Dat, Jay Vaughan, Jordan McChristian, Dennis Csentsis and Keeshawn Kellman played together at Rockne. Kevin Kern, who injured his ankle earlier in the season, was cleared today and suited up. It was too early for him to play, but it was nice to see him ready to go. These guys are selfless, something that is increasingly rare in high school basketball. But it works.

Having said that, I want to congratulate Northampton's coaching staff, for what its worth. In their last game of the season,one of their players committed a technical foul. The coaches could have played him against Central. No rule prevented it. But the coaches decided  to make the player sit out the game.

In the opening prayer at Central home games, we are reminded that the gym is really a classroom where good sportsmanship is taught.

Northampton's coaches would rather teach a young man a lesson than win a game.

That's class.

On Wednesday, Allentown Central Catholic will face East Stroudsburg South while Bethlehem Catholic will take on the Allen Canaries. At this point, the team is tentatively scheduled to play at Liberty High Schoolat 7:30 pm, following the girls' game.

Box Score

ACCHS - 64, Northampton - 48

Northampton -6-9-19-48
Central Catholic -18-20-15-64

Northampton (48)

Donte Rodriguez: 3  3FGs - 9
Aiden Ellwood: 4FGs, 4 3FGs, 0/2 FTs  - 20
Cory Weisenberger: 1 FGs, 1 3FG, - 5
Zachary Gula: 2 3FG - 6
Michael Torres: 4 FGs, - 8

Central Catholic (64)

Jay Vaughan: 2/4 3FG, 2/4 FG, 2 steals, 10 assists, 4 rebounds - 10
Keeshawn Kellman: 6/8 FGs, 1/3 FTs, 8 rebounds, 1 block -12
Jordan McChristian: 3/4 3FGs, 1/1 FG, 3/4 FTs, 1 assists, 3 rebounds - 14
Dat Lambert: 3/6 3FG, 2/5 FGs, 5/5 FTs, 1 steal, 2 rebound - 18
Nick Filchner: 3/5 3FG, 0/1 FG, 5 assists, 32 rebounds.- 9.

Blogger's Note: You can see scores from other local schools on my left sidebar. 

GPA Continues to Stall RTK Seeking Lawyer Bills

Former NorCo Exec Bill Brackbill once likened government authorities to "runaway trains." They may start off in the right direction, but there is always a danger that they will go off track. That seems to be the case at the Northampton County General Purpose Authority (GPA). It started off the new year with a Sunshine Act violation. It paid an unknown sum (believed to be $60,000-70,000) to the very public relations firm that former Executive John Brown was using to promote himself, oblivious to the public outrage and lawsuits. Last year, without the knowledge or assent of NorCo Council, it voted to pay $200 per hour to Board Chair Shawn Langen so he could review engineering work done for a bridge project. Solicitor John Lushis may have been doing side work for Executive John Brown and passing the bills through the GPA. He wagged his finger in the  face of the County Administrator following a meeting last week. And now, Lushis is dragging his feet on a Right-to-Know request for information from GPA, including Lushis's bills.

I submitted two Right-to-Know requests in January, asking for the Lushis bills, the public relations bills, and all correspondence concerning the jail, especially at Gracedale  After playing some games about my requests, Lushis agreed to respond to me by February 15. That would be this week.

But late Friday, Lushis sent me an email telling me he wanted another extension until April 15 because there were 3,000 documents. This stall tactic is being used in the forlorn hope that I will lose interest. I won't.

I can understand a delay might be needed if the request is more burdensome than I originally thought it would be. But he needs to produce his legal bills. Now.

Below is my response to Lushis:

Mr. Lushis,

I have filed two Right-to-Know requests seeking information from the General Purpose Authority (GPA). In both, I made clear that I would agree to an extension, so long as it was to a date certain. You serve the GPA body as Solicitor and Right-to-Know Officer. You sought such an extension until February 15. This was not fine with me, but I kept my word and posed no objection.

On Friday, February 9, at the end of the day, you wrote to advise me you wanted yet another extension until April 15. This is because you suddenly discovered that over 3,000 documents need review.

I will agree in part to your request, although this is now a second date certain. I have no desire to unduly burden staff .

At this point, when you are ready to release these documents, have someone contact me so I can make an appointment to review them and determine how many copies are needed. Having done this before, I know that there is lots of duplication.

But I agree to no additional extension with respect to your legal invoices. They were approved at numerous meetings as a matter of public record. I have made no request that you disclose any legal advice you may have provided. I simply want and have a right to know how much the taxpayers paid you, and immediately. This is information at your fingertips. Your delay at this point smacks of bad faith.

Why are you hiding what the public pays you?

I expect you to produce your legal invoices on the agreed date of February 15, along with a record of all payments made to you.


Thank you.

Bernie O'Hare

Latest Developments in 15th Congressional District Race


After being rebuffed by the Unites States Supreme Court, the Pennsylvania legislature's top two Republicans - Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati and Speaker of the House Mike Turzai - have submitted a new map to the Governor. This time, they didn't even bother gettojg a vote. That's alright because the map they presented is almost certainly doomed, as is suggested in The Unionville Times. The new map is little more than an incumbent insurance policy, especially in the southeast. But one district it gets right is the 15th Pa. Congressional district. i suspect that portion of the map will survive with little change. And that bodes well for candidates John Morganelli and Susan Wild.

It bodes well for District Attorney John Morganelli because the Lehigh Valley is blue collar Democrat country. He easily won this area against the more liberal Josh Shapiro in the Attorney General race. It's good news for Allentown Attorney Susan Wild because the new map takes her only female competitor, Laura Quick, out of the picture.

It's bad news for Rev. Greg Edwards, whose condemnation of educational apartheid is likely to offend many Lehigh Valley Democrats despite the money he spends from outside the district. There are better ways of improving education than calling everyone involved a racist. Also, the new 15th has already drawn Rick Daugherty back into the picture. He'll be running for the third or fourth time, and he and Edwards will be taking votes from each other.

It's also good news for Ryan MacKenzie and Marty Nothstein because it takes Mike Pries and Scott Uehlinger out of the race. Though they can run, they no longer would be living in the district. It's bad news for Dean Browning, who was hoping for a more crowded field.

Edward has the endorsement of Bethlehem City Councilmember Olga Negron. Wild has been endorsed by former Lehigh county Exec Tom Muller. On Sunday, received the endorsement of the Lehigh Valley Building Trades Council. The Lehigh Valley Building Trades Council includes the Boilermakers Local 13, The Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers, Local 5, Carpenters Local 167, Cement Masons & Plasters Local 592, Electricians Locals 102 and 375, Elevators Construction Local 84, Glaziers & Architectural Metal Workers Local 252, Heat & Frost Insulators Local 23 and the Ironworkers Local 420 and Operating Engineers.

Their endorsement was unanimous.

Morganelli has a long history with labor, growing up in a labor household. John's father was a member of the Operating Engineers Local #542, the Laborers Union , the Steelworkers, and Teamsters. His mother was a member of the ILGWU. Before becoming the District Attorney, John represented the Bethlehem Corporation Employees Association and is the only district attorney who has fought to enforce the Construction Misclassification Act.

In accepting the endorsement, District Attorney Morganelli said, "In Washington, I will make protecting the middle class, growing wages, and access to health care my priorities. I have spent my career as a Democratic elected official defending the working man, and I pledge to continue that as the next Congressman from the 15th Congressional District."

Blogger's Note: I support john Morganelli for Congress and home you vote for him anyway.

Texas Teacher Dies From Flu, Delayed Getting $116 in Meds

A second grade Texas teacher has died from the flu because she was unable or unwilling to pick up her prescription, which was $116 with copay. Her delay may be because she was frugal, was unable to afford the medication or simply hates taking pills. I fall in all three of those categories myself. Unfortunately, this will continue no matter whether Obamacare, single payer or some other form of health insurance is in place.

Ultimately, staying healthy is a losing battle.

The Pa. Department of Health reports that, as of February 3, flu is widespread throughout the state, with the highest activity in the southeast. Statewide, there have been 91 deaths so far, including one in Northampton County.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Boys Hoops: Playoffs Under Way

Support your favorite team!

Monday: EPC quarter-finals at 7 pm

#8 seed Parkland at #1 seed Becahi.
#5 seed Allen at #4 seed Pocono Mountain West
#6 seed Easton at #3 seed East Stroudsburg South
#7 seed Northampton at #2 seed Allentown Central Catholic

Tuesday: Colonial League playoff games at Catasauqua High School

Southern Lehigh will face #2 seed Moravian Academy at 6 pm.
Wilson High School will face #1 seed Bangor at 7:30 pm.