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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Tidd Exonerated by Judicial Discipline Court

Until he resigned in July 2016, David Tidd was Magisterial District Judge in Hellertown and Lower Saucon Township. It was a position he had held since 2009. He should be there now. But he stepped down because of a distracting investigation and eventual complaint filed by officious lawyers on the Judicial Conduct Board. Chief Counsel Robert Graci and his Deputy, Elizabeth Flaherty, had painted a bull's eye on Tidd's back. They were all-too-willing to accept the word of clerks who had tried and nearly succeeded in setting up a good man. Fortunately, the Court of Judicial Discipline saw things differently. Except for one instance in which Tidd angrily confronted his staff, the Court found no merit in any of the numerous other accusations.

Tidd was represented by West Chester Attorney Samuel C. Stretton. The judges on this panel were Allegheny County Magisterial District Judges David Barton, Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey Minehart and Lackawanna County President Judge Michael Barrasse.

This ordeal took its toll on Tidd. In addition to resigning as a Magisterial District Judge, he also moved his law practice to Berks County.

He still faces a potential parallel complaint with the state Disciplinary Board, but Friday's ruling makes that far less likely. .

Though exonerated by the Court of Judicial Discipline, Tidd was convicted by the Express Times long ago. Here are some of the headlines. "Bully judge dropped F-bombs, slept on floor in robes, panel finds." "Misconduct trial starts for ex-judge who ran 'fast food' court." "Bully judge ignored warnings about misconduct, clerk testifies." "Work was 'intolerable' with judge's cursing, abuse, clerk testifies." "Judge held clerks 'against our will' in confrontation, witness says." "Disgraced judge admits regrets, suicidal thoughts, but not misconduct."

As if this were not bad enough, he was also accused of playing favorites with a local defense lawyer.

Headlines are one thing, but facts are another. As the 32-page opinion below makes clear, Tidd was victimized by office staffer Brenda Anthony, who for some reason had it in for him. You'll have to ask her why. Tidd even hired her daughter, Amber Glass, to work for him. Tidd lent his staff money, too. But behind his back, Brenda Anthony was talking to Tidd's election opponent, feeding him confidential information. This is in violation of a ban on partisan political activity by court-appointed employees. She and Amber kept notes about Tidd, and would save video clips from within the office if they were juicy, while deleting everything else. They even scheduled hearings for him on election day, forcing him to leave the campaign trail.

They dimed him for sleeping on his robe without bothering to point out that he used his robe as a pillow to take a nap one day because of a serious medical illness.

He was slammed for running a "fast food" court, dispensing justice from his office counter. But as witnesses explained, Tidd never conducted trials from a counter. He did sometimes ask a police officer or a defendant of there was going to be a plea arrangement. His function there was mostly administrative and had more to do with being in confined quarters than any desire for a judicial McDonald's.

He was also accused of playing favorites by notifying a local defense lawyer he knew of outstanding parking tickets so he could come in and pay the fine before an arrest warrant was issued.  Testimony showed that Tidd offered this same courtesy to others.

He was charged with using his position as a judge to pick up work as a lawyer or to represent peiple who had matters before him as a jurist. Testimony showed that Tiidd sought and followed ethical guidance concerning anyone who approached him for representation when there was a matter before him as a judge. When there was a conflict, he'd have the judicial matter reassigned. One of the persons who testified against him was Leslie Ziegler, the wife of one of Tidd's judicial opponents in 2015."We find troubling the apparent motivation behind Ziegler's April, 2015 complaint concerning acts that occurred in 2010 and 2011," the Court observed.

So after being tarred and feathered, where does Tidd go to get his reputation back?

As of November, Brenda Anthony was still listed as a Magisterial District Judge Tech. Her daughter, Amber Glass, is a 911 operator.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Brown Does Go Out On a High Note After All

John Brown
Last night, Northampton County Council met for the last time this year. For four of them (Mat Benol, Glenn Geissinger, Hayden Phillips and Seth Vaughn) it was their last meeting, at least for now. As Council President John Cusick observed, "There are second acts in government." 

Seven of the nine Council members were there. Bob Werner, who is dealing with a family illness, was absent. Seth Vaughn, hardly known for his attendance, was also absent.

One of you said that Northampton County Exec John Brown had left for a long vacation, and we'd never see him again. But he was there, along with Administrator Cathy Allen and a few of his cabinet officials.

I was deeply concerned that Brown was intent on mischief. Just a week before, he asked Council to cut taxes a mill, which would throw his budget out of balance and require deficit spending. I had also discovered that, contrary to what he said on the campaign trail, he did meet secretly with Upper Nazareth Township officials on March 27 to pitch a jail at Gracedale. I was certain he would veto the budget, millage rate ordinance, or both.

But he didn't.

Ken Kraft had a broken nose
Earlier that day, Brown signed both the budget and millage rate ordinance. "The 2018 budget is balanced and balanced on its own revenue. We did not need to use any of the general revenue funds to balance the budget."

Going all the way back to 1982, Brown said this was the first time that the County has seen a budget that involved no deficit spending. When he came into office four years ago, he had to spend $19 million in cash reserves to balance the budget, but spent his time in office looking for operating efficiencies. He thanked his "team," as he likes to call his cabinet, and wished the new Council good luck.

Later that night, Solicitor Ryan Durkin complimented Brown's integrity and organizational skills. "You had a  hell of an Executive here," he said. 

At this meeting, departing Council members were presented with plaques thanking them for their dedicated public service, guidance and wisdom. ironically "dedicated" public servant Seth Vaughn was playing hooky so his plaque will be mailed.

Phillips, who is unfairly beating himself up over his loss, said he would "treasure" his four years.

Geissinger admitted to "mistakes along the way," which I've been all to happy to point out. He claimed to have learned, but after the meeting was over, he was already planning for his next election - challenging Lamont McClure for County Exec.

Benol claimed everyone is his friend and apparently even gave his decalogue to Ken Kraft, but I missed it because at this point, I was throwing up while these politicians all pretended to like each other

Ken Kraft came closest to the truth when he told fellow Council members, "You made my life a living hell."

Cusick thanked everyone and hinted a little that he'll be out as Council president next year. Ken Kraft is reportedly taking his place at the helm of County Council.

Kraft came to the meeting with a broken nose. His wife was seen earlier, running from the building and laughing. 

State Theatre's Denise Smith
In an indication that Council Solicitor Phil Lauer is getting fired, Council presented him with the "dedicated public service, guidance and wisdom" plaque. Lauer said that when he first came on board, he knew very little about County government. Now that he's finally figured it out, he's getting kicked out.

Lauer will likely be replaced by Bethlehem Attorney Chris Spadoni, so hide the $800 popcorn machine.

In other business, Council hired the Haviland Hughes law firm to pursue litigation against opioid manufacturers. I will have a more detailed story about this next week. I will be speaking to Lehigh County attorney Bill Platt, who is a member of that firm.

Finally, as it does every year, Council dipped unto its contingency fund for three worthy entities that were unable to make timely applications for grant awards.

* The State Theatre's Denise Smith asked for and got $20,000 to help the State update its ticketing system so that patrons can print out tickets online. "She's a money pit, but she's absolutely gorgeous," she said in reference to the State, not Executive Director Shelly Brown.

* "Because of a Dog" got a $5,000 grant for a kennel in Bethlehem to hold stray dogs. Because Bethlehem has no kennel, police officers lose time on patrol while taking dogs to temporary shelters.

* Stephens Place, a halfway house for nonviolent but addicted adult males who are reintegrating from prison to society, received $5,000.

DaVinci's Lin Erickson was also hovering at the meeting with her hand out again, but received no money last night.

Nothstein Pledges Self-Imposed Term Limit in Congressional Bid

FROM THE NOTHSTEIN FOR CONGRESS CAMPAIGN: - Conservative Republican Marty Nothstein has formally pledged to self-imposed term limits if elected to Congress for Pennsylvania’s 15th Congressional District.

Nothstein, a small businessman and Lehigh County commissioner, called term limits crucial in the effort to eliminate the problem of government gridlock created by career politicians.

“It's no secret that the longer our elected officials are in office, the more likely they are to become career politicians,” Nothstein said. “Term limits are the first step to getting rid of career politicians in Washington who end up working for big special interests instead of working for those back home. If elected, I promise to term limit myself to no more than 8 years. If it's good enough for the President then it's good enough for Congress."

He cited the current gridlock in Congress as a prime example of the dangers of returning career politicians to office for decades.

“I'm tired of career politicians telling us they are going to do something but then it never getting done,” Nothstein said. “There's no urgency in Congress because they are guaranteed their paycheck whether or not they get anything accomplished. I have lived my entire life setting goals and then working hard to achieve them. I will bring that same drive and determination if given the honor by voters of the 15th district.”

Nothstein said he would also favor and work toward a Constitutional Amendment to create term limits on members of Congress.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Brown Signs Budget, Millage Rate Ordinance

I was deeply concerned that outgoing NorCo Exec John Brown would veto the budget, millage rate ordinance or both. I have just learned that he signed them both. Based on his last-minute attempt to sabotage incoming Exec Lamont McClure with a tax cut, I fully expected the games would continue.

Freeman Wants to Expand State Insurance Fund For Medical Insurance

Whether you support or oppose Obamacare, I think just about everyone agrees that health insurance has simply become unaffordable. It's one of the biggest line items in both municipal and private sector budgets, and the costs just keep rising as hospitals multiply.

State Rep. Bob Freeman, D-Northampton, has introduced legislation that would make health insurance more affordable for Pennsylvanians by permitting the State Workers’ Insurance Fund to sell health insurance.

The State Workers' Insurance Fund provides a workers' compensation program for Pennsylvania businesses unable access workers' comp insurance in the private sector. It is only permitted to sell workers' compensation insurance. Freeman's bill would expand its offerings to include health insurance.

"[I]t would make a quality insurance product available to Pennsylvanians at a lower cost than current rates because of its lower administrative overhead, and it would create more competition within the health insurance market," Freeman said. "In addition, by making this available in the market, it would serve as a yardstick by which to measure the fairness of rates charged by private health insurance companies."

Freeman said this would be paid for with premiums to health care subscribers and a loan from the SWIF fund, which would be paid back.

His bill was just introduced yesterday, but has attracted four co-sponsors.

Some Brown Hires Want to Stay at NorCo

It started on Monday. Letters started arriving at the Northampton County Courthouse, informing numerous exempt employees that when John Brown leaves office, so should they. Unlike career service personnel, these are the cronies. They are here because of their connection to Brown or one of his cabinet officials. If they stay, Executive Lamont McClure will have to prepare for numerous knives in the back. But some of the people who came here under Brown want to stay. They've worked out deals so they can continue collecting a paycheck by taking career service and union jobs.

One of these is Deputy Director of Human Resources Michael Twining. He's the guy whom HR Director Amy "Toxic" Trapp sent to Las Vegas, and then to New Orleans, on the public dime. You may have seen him operating Trapp's $800 popcorn machine at the "wellness" fair.

The deal with Twining is to send him to take over Bill Hillanbrand's job at 911. Bill, unfortunately, retired. This position was advertised, and lo and behold, the only person qualified was none other than Twining. What a coincidence!

Here's what a reader tells me:

"My main concern is that fact Michael Twining is suddenly popping up as a supervisor at the 911 center. Myself and Mr. Twining went head to head on several issues during his time in HR and now he's going to be my supervisor. I fear retribution. Thanks in advance for any information you can provide on the legality of this process."

The other special arrangement is with Deputy Director of Public Works Landon Parker. He's going from there to a union position somewhere in the County.

This is contrary to tradition in Northampton County, but so far as I know, it is legal.

The problem that both Twining and Parker have is that they will be considered probationary employees. They have no property right to continued employment unless they successfully make it out of probation.

Brown's Detailed Plans For Gracedale Jail

Lexington jail
On the campaign trail, Northampton County Executive John Brown adamantly denied any plans to build a jail at Gracedale. He accused Lamont McClure, the man who beat him of fear-mongering. He derided my reports, collected over a period of one year, as "fake news." But as I told you yesterday, the truth is that Brown had a secret, two-hour long meeting with Upper Nazareth Supervisors on March 27 to lay out his plans for a jail at Gracedale. He only changed his tune when Upper Nazareth residents became alarmed.They have no interest in politics,but care about their children.

I looked through the 30-page power point that Brown (along with Administrator Cathy Allen, Corrections Director Dan keen, Public Works Director Stan Rugis and General Purpose Authority Solicitor John Lushis) presented to Upper Nazareth officials.

Brown went through several correctional facilities visited by Corrections Director Dan Keen. All had been designed by DLR, which just happens to be the firm he hired with a $72,000 no-bid contract to do a jail study.

Here's what he claimed it would look like from the front.


He also presented an aerial view that includes the new jail and Gracedale.


He told Supervisors that residents would barely be able to see t from the roadway. They'd never know it was there.


There was also a discussion of specific site issues like "integration" with the community, traffic mitigation,night lighting, a nice buffer and the clearance needed for a Medevac helicopter next door.


Minutes of the Upper Nazareth Supervisors indicate that this private meeting was not mentioned for nearly three months, but I've been informed that it was disclosed on several occasions in April.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Bethlehem Zoning Hearing Board Approves 70-Unit Apartment Complex at Armory

Earlier this month, Bethlehem's Zoning Hearing Board considered a request for a 70-unit apartment complex at the Armory on Second Avenue. Last night, the Board voted 3-0 to grant the dimensional variances sought. Voting in support were Bill Fitzpatrick, Jim Schantz and Attorney Mike Santanasto. Twoother members of the Board - Gus Loupos and Attorney Linda Shay Gardener - were unable to participate.

Because I was at a basketball game, I missed the deliberations and vote. But Agent 54 was there, and let me know what happened. he also provided a copy of a motion that Attorney Micahel Shay filed, seeking to strike the testimony of Darlene Heller. That motion was also denied, 3-0.

Shay argues that Heller was essentially acting as a witness for developer Michael Perrucci.

It's perfectly acceptable for a Planning Director to appear on behalf of a Planning Commission that is recommending variances. This ios expressly permitted by the Pa Municipalities Planning Code. In this case, she was there to relay the recommendation of the Planning Commission. But she went too far, injecting her own opinions about some of the testimony opposed to the variances. What I also find noteworthy is that whenever Heller does appear on behalf of a developer, it is Michael Perrucci.

Below is Shay's motion.

May Planning Director Testify in Support of Zoning Appeal by BernieOHare on Scribd

Brown Met Secretly With Upper Nazareth For Jail at Gracedale



One of the biggest issues in November's election was Executive John Brown's secret plans for a jail at Gracedale. Since September 2016, I had been warning you about this possibility. In September 2017, I told you that Brown himself had visited a dozen different locations, had ruled out a new jail at Easton, and had told Council he would build on a greenfield. In July, prison advisory board chair Dan Christenson called Gracedale a "great location." When I pressed Brown on the issue, he said only that zoning approval would be needed. He declined to rule it out. Even when a large group of Upper Nazareth residents invaded Council to complain, he refused to rule it out. He finally did so from his Facebook page in mid-October, when I'm sure he was told he was digging his own political grave. Brown claimed Lamont McClure was trying to scare people. He also repeatedly referred to these stories, most of which came from me, as "fake news." Brown went on to lose the election, this is all water over the dam now. But I learned last night that Brow had every intention of building a jail at Gracedale. His statements to the contrary are the "fake news."

Above you can see the cover page of a 30-page power point presentation that Brown gave to Upper Nazareth Supervisors in a closed-door session on March 27, outside the public spotlight. Under our toothless Sunshine Act, you can get away with keeping the public in the dark by claiming it is just information gathering.

Brown met with Supervisors for over two hours. Attending this secret meeting with him were Corrections Director Dan Keen, Administrator Cathy Allen, Public Works Director Stan Rugis and General Purpose Authority Solicitor John Lushis. His presence is an indication that Brown was considering a P3 financing mechanism for a $180 million jail.

I only have the cover page of the power point for now, but will have the whole thing by the end of the day. i wish I had this before the election..

I'm informed that the power point shows the different sites visited by Keen, and also shows how a site from Kentucky would fit at Gracedale's campus. It even includes different rotations.

It's pretty clear that Brown did intend to build a jail at Gracedale. It'sjust as clear that he wanted to keep the public in the dark while disingenuously claiming to be transparent.

He should look up the word.

In short, Brown was untruthful. It caught up to him.

In June, Supervisors admitted to this secret meeting,. Three of them - Mike Rinker, Donna Hirst and Scott Sylvainus - said they oppose the idea.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Beitler to run for State House

One of my favorite elected officials is Lower Mac Comm'r Ron Beitler. Like Matt Dees in West Easton, he uses his blog (Lower Mac News) to keep residents well-informed about their community. I have learned that Ron intends to run for the state house seat currently occupied by Ryan MacKenzie.

Beitler is a graduate of Emmaus High School and Slippery Rock University. He owns and operates Bar None, an event services planner.

“By now, it’s no secret that Harrisburg is a mess. What has been a well-kept secret is that the problems can be fixed by honesty, integrity, and common sense,” Beitler said.

He has promised to term limit himself to a total of eight years in office.

“If you can’t get the job done in that time, then you shouldn’t be there.” Beitler said.

He also has signed a pledge to reject a government pension stating, “service is a calling, not a career path - my small business is my career, and when I get the job done in Harrisburg I’ll come home to that.”

Beitler claims to have reduced spending, opposed debt, lowered tax bills and worked to block waste while serving in Lower Macungie. He said he will support a State Constitutional amendment limiting spending increases.

“Government needs to live within the same constraints that we do,” he said.

He resides in Lower Macungie with his wife, Amanda, their nine-month-old daughter, Cecilia Adeline and their family dog Ellie Mae.

A Christmas Story in Coplay

As most of you know, I am a miserable bastard. I'm as mean as cat shit, a bottom-feeder who is always complaining about something. It's what I do. And today, I want to tell you all about the antics at a Buzz N Beyond. It's a small barbershop located at 601 Chestnut Street in Coplay, not far from the amazing Thai Diner.

Proprietor Sue Santiago has been cutting hair for 29 years. In her words, "I have met so many wonderful people, formed many friendships, shared joys of graduations, weddings, babies, grandkids etc. But sometimes, I hear the not so happy stories."

One of her customers, an elderly man named John, told Sue earlier this that his dream was to visit the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, but he was unable to afford the trip. So every time he came in for a trim, she'd set aside the money he paid her. When he came in for a haircut yesterday, she gave him all the money she had set aside for him along with a "Dear John" letter. But it was the nice kind.


Don't worry. I'll return to my usual miserable self by tomorrow. .

Vote For Dat!

Just when you think I'm done talking about elections, I've got another one that's far more important than anything else. My grandson Dat had a pretty good weekend with the Allentown Central Catholic Vikings, as his team won the Paul Corby tip-off tournament to start the season at 2-0. They all did very well.

I was surprised to learn that he's been nominated as The Morning Call's athlete of the week. So if you can, please vote for him.

I'm waiting for the beauty contest.

On the left, you can see Dat with Suki, his cRaZy dog. She is actually quite the athlete herself, but she plays dirty. When Dat played football, she'd not only tackle him, but rip off his shorts.

Monday, December 11, 2017

ACCHS: We Beat the Bubblers!

I was away most of this weekend at a boys' basketball tournament at Boiling Springs High School. Allentown Central Catholic defeated East Pennsboro on Friday and Boiling Springs on Saturday to win the tourney and start the season with a 2-0 record.

After failing to convince the attendant that I'm a student, it cost me $5 to get in. My hand was stamped with this:

BS? She must know me.

In the first game, four Central players scored in the double digits, showing a balance that portends well for them. Junior Chad Kratzer was unstoppable 16, followed by Jay Vaughan (14), Dat Lambert (13) and Nick Filchner (10). On Saturday night, Dat Lambert scored 19. He was named tournament MVP while fellow guard Jay Vaughan was selected to the all-tournament quad.

On Tuesday, Whitehall will host the Vikings.

Will Brown Veto Budget, Millage Rate?

One of my readers claims that outgoing NorCo Exec John Brown is on vacation and we'll never see him again. I believe it's entirely possible that we'll see him again soon, and not in a good way.  He could veto the budget approved December 7, the millage rate ordinance adopted by Council, or both. He has until December 14 to do so, and could even do it after Council meets that day. He has until December 17 to veto the millage rate ordinance. I actually expect him to veto one or both measures, and at the last possible minute. 

After promising Lamont McClure's transition team that he wanted to leave office on a high note, Brown pulled his own Pearl Harbor when NorCo Council met on December 7 to approve next year's budget and millage rate. He proposed a one-mill tax reduction ($8 million) to his own budget. He did so without a corresponding $8 million cut in spending. This was an attempt to sabotage McClure, forcing him to dip into cash reserves and limiting the county's ability to deal with an emergency.

Because Republicans were unable to agree on whether the tax cut should be a full or a half mill, they ended up with the millage rate originally proposed.

Three of them - Seth Vaughn, Glenn Geissinger and Mat Benol - are out to hurt the county. They voted against everything, even the salary for professional employees. Not surprisingly, all three are on their way out.

On Friday, Vaughn used Facebook to lash out at his fellow Republicans on Council for refusing to agree to a one-mill tax cut. "[F]our Republicans on council, Matt Deitz, Hayden Phillips, Peg Ferraro, and John Cusick voted against it. Keep that in mind next time you go to the ballot box."

What surprised me is that Brown's wife Tina slammed them, too. "True colors," she said of this quartet. Never mind that Peg Ferraro invited Tina and Brown to her fundraiser at Holy Family and let him give a speech that was so boring that Nazareth Ambulance had to be called in to revive the cooks. That's gratitude, Tina! Up until now, I considered you a civilian.  If you want to engage in these debates, you become fair game.

Given Tina Brown's comment, my guess is that the attempt to sabotage McClure is alive and well. But the Home Rule Charter may very well protect the citizens of Northampton County.

As I said, his options are to veto the budget, the millage rate ordinance, or both.

Veto of the budget. - The Home Rule Charter does give the Executive authority to veto the budget, but he may only delete or decrease items. So he can decrease the fund balance by $8 million and set the stage fora new millage rate ordinance.

Veto of the millage rate ordinance. - The millage rate ordinance is a separate ordinance, and the Executive can veto it, just like he can veto any ordinance. But guess what? Council would have no authority under the Home Rule Charter to adopt a new ordinance. It lacks the time for a new ordinance, which would take a month for two readings. It would be unable to adopt a new millage rate except as an emergency ordinance. And that's impossible for two reasons. First, there's no emergency. Council and Brown are just playing politics. Second, the Charter expressly states that "an emergency ordinance shall not levy taxes."

That would necessarily mean that the millage rate set in 2017 or the one that Brown vetoed would remain in effect. So Brown and his minions will try, but they will fail.

The law has never been their strong suit.

Ken Kraft had a good retort to Vaughn's false outrage. "If [Brown] wanted to create a budget with a lower tax rate, he would have done it from the beginning. What don't you understand? What part of County government don't you get? I understand exactly what you are trying to do, you're trying to be a vindictive prick and pass an illegal unfunded budget so the next guys are in a bind, you are probably the one who said those words about, lets cut taxes and see them balance the budget... little passive aggressive these days since the voters handed you your well deserved defeat... ."

Friday, December 08, 2017

NorCo's Lame Duck Council Gives $10M to DaVinci, Attempts to Sabotage McClure

The big story you'll see today is that Northampton County voted last night to award $10 million in hotel taxes for the Easton-based DaVinci Science Center. Wednesday, this project looked like it was dead in the water after Pearly Baker owner Jonathan Davis called it a "killer” to local business.  But over the next 24 hours, the aquarium dropped its plans for a dining facility and turned restaurateur Davis from skeptic to cheerleader. What followed was a stream of officials who view the giant fish tank as the answer to all of Easton's troubles. But before you get too excited, remember this decision was made by a lame duck Council on its way out the door. Next year there will be a new Council that  is much more critical, and they could decide to stop the funding before a dime is spent.

The grant passed by a 5-4 vote. Voting for it were Peg Ferraro, Glenn Geissinger, Mat Benol, Seth Vaughn and Bob Werner. Voting No were Ken Kraft, John Cusick, Matt Dietz and Hayden Phillips.

One of my readers predicted this, and it went down exactly as he or she said.

"None of the facts matter.

"What you will witness tonight is a carefully-choreographed performance where Council will appear to take the public into consideration before voting on something that was decided behind closed doors.

"DaVinci will turn out their people to make it appear that the fish tank has real and overwhelming support. The people who actually have their own skin in the game be swamped by the well-connected special interest group looking for public dollars.

"And we all know this story ends the same, with this Executive/Council or the next."

My only disagreement with this reader is that I believe that the new Council will reverse this grant. To use Ken Kraft's words, "It's insane."

Peg Ferraro, who has been named Pocketbook Peg by my readers, was the spearhead for this grant. She has placed a ball and chain around the county's neck for the next 40 years, really hamstringing its ability to fund tourism anywhere else. Kraft told me that repealing this ordinance is the first thing he intends to propose once the new Council is sworn in.

After this grant was approved, most of the public and even the press left. The Morning Call's Tom Shortell and I stuck around. What happened next is the real story last night. It is that a bitter Executive and lameduck Council tried their best to sabotage Executive-elect Lamont McClure and an incoming Council before they can get started. It was an appalling display of sour grapes. They failed last night. But with a few weeks left until they are gone, they just may succeed.

John Brown had assured McClure's transition team that he wanted to leave office on a high note. There would be no surprises. He'd play no games with the budget. But that's precisely what he did.

In a long night that included several presentations, Brown decided to give the longest Executive report of his career. He went on at least 20 minutes, patting himself on the back and congratulating himself on what a fine job he did. I had no problem with this. I'm sure he's disappointed that he lost the election. If he wanted to list some of his achievements, so be it. If he wanted to remind everyone he is still the Executive, he is. But then he told council to reduce the tax millage rate by a mill. Never mind that it is he who proposed a budget that required 11.8 mills for a balanced budget. Never mind that reducing the millage would result not just in deficit spending, but an unbalanced budget that violates the Home Rule Charter. The revenue estimate set by the Executive will fail to equal what the county spends.

Ken Kraft said that the budget Brown introduced in October, when he still thought he was going to win the race, called for 11.8 mills. Now that he's lost, he wants to reduce taxes by one mill without a corresponding reduction in spending, and let McClure deal with the consequences. "You're automatically putting the next administration on their heels, where they're going to have to raise taxes," he said. "I think it's a real shitty thing to do. Underhanded. And you people are despicable for even putting it up there."

Budget Administrator Doran Hamann advised Council that a one-mill reduction would translate to $8 million in tax revenue. "Decisions would have to be made to either cut the budget by $8 million or subsidize the budget with fund balance from the general fund, which only the County Executive can do."

Under the Home Rule Charter, Council has no authority to interfere with revenue projections. Only Brown could decide to deficit spend.

Brown eventually said he would take the money from fund balance.

At this point Council began squabbling over whether to grant a half mill or one mill tax decrease. Seth Vaughn, Mat Benol and Glen Geissinger voted against a half-mill tax decrease because they wanted a full mill. Hayden Phillips, Matt Dietz and Pocketbook Peg Ferraro voted against a full mill tax decrease because they wanted a half mill. So Council did ultimately vote to hold the line on taxes at 11.8 mills, with the Geissinger-Vaughn-Benol trio voting No.

Now you might dismiss what Ken Kraft said as the rants of a partisan Democrat who should be committed. I have tried to have him put away a few times myself.

But it's hard to ignore what Matt Dietz said. Matt is a conservative Republican representing the northern tier of the county. He'd love to cut taxes. But two things bothered him. First, the move to reduce taxes was coming over two months after Brown introduced a budget that called for 11.8 mills. Second, while declining to name names, Dietz said that there comments made by Council members at the last meeting stating that they would vote for a millage reduction "and watch the next council try to balance it. And the next administration. I think that it is poor servants of the people of Northampton County, and I'm pretty embarrassed that it was said."

An honest man.

Sitting next to Dietz was a partisan Republican (Mat Benol) who insists on hanging a decalogue behind him at every meeting. And sitting another seat away was a former Mormon bishop (Geissinger). I am always leery of people who wear their religion on their sleeves. If you ever wonder why I refuse to stand when these phonies offer their fake prayers, this is why. There is no doubt in my mind that the Mormon Bishop and Ten Commandment Kid colluded with Brown and Vaughn to hamstring McClure before he ever got started. Never mind that it's the people who will suffer.

Brown may very well veto this budget so he can press the matter.

I'm sure you have lots of questions about the specifics of this budget, as well as other matters. I'll have more for you next week. For now, I'll say only that it is highly unlikely that anyone who Brown brought with him into Northampton County will be kept after this attempted sabotage. Brown promised no surprises, and then broke his word with this stunt. McClure would be foolish to think he could trust any of them, and he is not foolish.