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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

One Sletvold Too Many?

The Express Times is now reporting that Bob Sletvold has been nominated as the next Chief Public Defender by Executive-elect John Brown. I had warned you this would happen last week. Sletvold is an excellent lawyer, but is this one Sletvold too many?

Sletvold's wife, Jennifer, was elected judge in November's election. A Republican, she garnered the nomination of both parties in the primary. Had there been a contested race against Chris Spadoni or Abe Kassis, that would have increased Democratic turnout. So Brown, a Republican, owes Sletvold. This is his way of saying thanks.

But here's the problem. Bob Sletvold concedes that he could not represent anyone in a matter in front of his wife, but thinks that is an unlikely occurrence. But if he is conflicted, then so are the lawyers who work under him. That basically means that Judge Jennifer Sletvold will be unable to hear any criminal cases.

If the Sletvolds ignore propriety and forge ahead, they are exposing the County to all sorts of litigation down the road from disgruntled inmates who will claim their case was mishandled.

Northampton County Council must confirm Sletvold. Five of its nine members are Republicans.

Shit Wars Continue in Upper Mount Bethel


One of the signs residents claim do not exist
It's Christmas time. Time to put logs on the fire, not to discuss the logs we drop into the toilet. So I bet colorful land owner and former NorCo Council member Ron Angle $5 that no more than 50 people would bother to show up for a hastily-scheduled meeting between Christmas and New Year. There's already been a big meeting about Angle's plans to spread shit, more politely referred to as biosolids, on his farms. But I'm $5 poorer. People in Upper Mount Bethel really take their turds seriously. Nearly 200 of them crammed into the Mount Bethel Fire House last night for yet another powwow. They came in angry, in the mood for a good ol' fashioned lynching. But by the end of the night, some sludge opponents even liked what Angle had to say. One sludge opponent even told a typical Angle heckler to "shut the fuck up." The tide may have turned in shit wars. In the end, it's not about shit at all. It's about the farmer. Let me give you the flush-by-flush.

Ron Angle doesn't give a shit
Upper Mount Bethel has five Supervisors, chaired by Judy Henckel. She lost a primary re-election bid. Her critics have claimed she was wasting the Township's open space money to buy steep slopes, cliffs and bogs. Though a survey of Township residents indicates that farmland preservation is their top priority, she refused to spend a nickel to preserve Upper Mount Bethel farms.

She's no friend to farmers.

Angle, on the other hand owns several farms in Northampton County. He has never developed a property. In fact, he once told me he does not even consider himself the owner of the lands titled in his name. He said he is just a caretaker, and the land will be here long after he is gone.

He is no friend to Judy Henckel.

Ron Karsek, 15-year Township Solicitor
But one thing Angle does care about is farming. "If we lose farming in the Township, we ultimately will lose the beauty of the Township," he warned. 

He told the still angry crowd that at one time, there were 50-60 dairy farms in Upper Mount Bethel. Now there might be two, thanks in large part to governmental interference in milk prices.

In an effort to save the dairy farmer, our government destroyed him. A visit to what was once the proud Crivellaro dairy farm is all the proof you should need.

"They don't fix the price of gasoline, but they fix the price of milk," Angle complained.

Most of the remaining farms in Upper Mount Bethel are now crop farms, Angle noted, adding that agriculture is the biggest business in Pennsylvania. But even these farmers are in trouble. Corn fetched $8 a bushel just last year. This year, it is half that price, which means less money in a farmer's pocket.

"What are we really doing for the farmers?" he asked. "When last have any of you stopped at a farm and said thanks for the cornflakes I had this morning?" he asked. He then noted that the Township, instead of spending one cent on the farmer, has thrown $5500 per acre to buy development rights on swamps and bog land that is not developable.

Angle pointed out that his tenant farmers pay $150,000 for fertilizer on his Township farms when they could use treated shit and lime for nothing.

All they needed were bingo cards

Angle said he would stop talking shit is Supervisors would use open space money to buy fertilizer for qualified farmers, instead of swamps.
 
Angle's proposal was actually first advanced by Township watchdog Anthoni Scott a few weeks ago. Henckel tried to brush him asid then and again last night. She insisted the proposal is illegal and refused to recognize Scott until everyone else had spoken.

When he finally was allowed to speak, Scott noted simply that "[t]he farmer has a right to survive."

Two people other than Angle did seem to buy into Scott's idea.

One was Ron Karasek, the Township Solicitor. He told residents that any attempt to prevent Angle from spreading shit on his lands would likely fail. But he feels that devoting open space money to subsidize farmers, under a program in which all farmers can participate, is much more likely to withstand a court challenge.

The second person buying into Angle's idea is one of the leading anti-shit advocates. Sue DeGenaro, who helped form a "No Sludge" Facebook page, told Supervisors that Scott's subsidy proposal should be considered. She said the matter would have to go to referendum and that funds could be used on a sliding scale to subsidize farmers who adhere to "sustainable organic practices."

There was still a procession of residents.

Joe Gorman, an Irishman, spoke in a heavy brogue about a "community bill of rights," which so far has failed every time it has been challenged. He lectured everyone about our rights as Americans.

Daree Sicher, from Berks County's United Sludge-Free Alliance, waved six studies showing the potential harm caused by shit and insisted "these are not local turds," but would be coming from New York and even ... Delaware.

Point by point, Sicher was refuted by Synagro's Pete Price, whose company will be applying the sludge. He pointed out the shit  is pretreated, that infectious waste is not even sent to sewage disposal units, and added that the turds in fact will be Easton and Allentown turds. No Delaware turds. Sicher, a high school graduate whom the Sierra Club considers a "sludge expert," confused Dover, Delaware with Dover Township, which is located here in Pennsylvania.

One resident complained that too much attention is being paid to farmers. "What about me? she asked. "We do matter, not just the farmers."

Supervisors voted unanimously to drop the injunction they voted on at their last meeting. Then, after a brief executive session, they voted 4-1 to try to come up with a plan to subsidize farmers. Judith Henckel dissented, claiming the plan is illegal and a misuse of "open space funds for private person's profits."

Under that logic, every penny spent to buy steep cliffs and bog lands was also a misuse of open space funds because that money enriched people, including a millionaire realtor.

Incidentally Angle is not subsidized by this plan. The money would go to the farmers who work his land, not him.

Henckel also complained that Angle has "finally found a way to scuttle open space."

But Supervisor Larry Hallett took her to task. "Do you want to solve this, Judy, or do you just want it to hang out forever?"

There were still grumblers. Howard Klein, a Supervisor from Lower Mount Bethel, demanded that Angle produce his "contract" with Synagro. Price, the Synagro rep, told Klein there is no contract.

Supervisors will meet again on January 6 to reorganize and to hear more about the "community bill of rights." A lawyer with an advocacy group has been unable to appear at two meetings to explain why it is legal and has yet to speak to Solicitor Ron Karaseck.

Incidentally, yesterday was Angle's birthday. 

Monday, December 30, 2013

Upper Mount Bethel To Convene Emergency Shit Meeting

Though she's on her way out the door after her electoral defeat, outgoing Upper Mount Bethel Supervisor has called an emergency shit meeting to deal with Ron Angle tonight, 6 pm, at the Mount Bethel Fire House. Though the colorful former Northampton County Council President has agreed to delay shit spreading on his farms until mid-January, that's not good enough for his foes.

Now I don't know how you personally feel about shit, but it's a hot topic in the northern tier. Sure, it's holiday time, and shit should be the last thing on people's minds. But the Upper Mount Bethel Township shitkickers have been busy. In addition to persuading Henckel to call this emergency meeting, they've also blocked access to a Ron Angle farm along a road that he actually owns.

With one stone.

When Angle told me about this, I didn't believe him. I had to see it for myself. So last week, I met him at the famous Mount Bethel Diner for a tour. He was holding court with about ten other people when I arrived. Some of them have asked Angle not to do it.

"You can sprinkle sugar on it and call it a brownie," but it's still shit., said one of his confidantes.

Angle doesn't give a shit.

I don't know what it is about diners. I think all public meetings should take place there because no matter where it is, from Billy's to City View, all the problems of the world get solved there. But I digress.

After everyone had finished eating their breakfast, Angle took me on a tour. We passed various "no shit" signs along the way. But we had to stop repeatedly because, as luck would have it, Ron had the shits. I told him to save it.

In addition to looking at the blocked road, I went onto the farm. It commands a magnificent view. People use it in the Winter to four wheel. In the Fa;l, they hunt the land. In the Spring and Summer, there are crops. Would people rather see another crowded development there or a farm?

I sometimes wonder what they are thinking.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Lenny Righi: RIP

When I was in high school, Friday night dances were the big thing. At that time, Becahi still had a "boys" and "girls" wing and the concept of co-ed education was only slowly sinking in. This separation carried over to the dance. All the boys would sit at one end of the gym, casting occasional glaces at the girls. They'd dance with each other, occasionally glancing at the boys. Until the last dance. That's when you'd make your move. 

I'm not quite sure how it happened, but I ended u being one of the two DJs on hand, at least until the last dance. That other DJ was Lenny Righi, a year ahead of me. 

Lenny Righi died last week. I just found out today. 

After high school, Lenny remained interested in music and eventually became a music critic at The Morning Call.  

He was one of the casualties at that newspaper's downsizing, but I got to meet him and renew our friendship when he started working for WFMZ-TV69

With all his years in as a reporter, you might think he'd just be going through the motions. But he worked and dug. I'd often see him at the courthouse, looking over the latest filings, and from there he'd head off to a meeting. 

As often as not, it would be the same place I was going. 

His reports were always right on the money. He also had the gift of brevity. He could say in three sentences what takes me three pages. 

I know Lenny was looking forward to moving South, and am sorry that wish will never be fulfilled. 

Only a few of you know him. But it is guys like Leonard Righi, and it's an increasingly smaller group, who do their community a great service by simply telling you what your government is doing.

Daryl Nerl, another Morning Call alum, has a touching tribute at Patch.. 

Two Bethlehem Police Chiefs?

Incoming Bethlehem Mayor Bob Donchez nominated Lt. Det. Mark DiLuzio as the City's next police chief in early December, but the current occupant of that office reportedly refuses to go gentle into that good night. Chief Craig Finnerty, who was just confirmed in August, is apparently dragging his feet. He is refusing to make way for his successor.

When he was confirmed, Chief Finnerty acknowledged that the incoming mayor has the right to appoint whomever he wants.

I attempted to contact Finnerty, but he's on vacation until January 2.

Updated 11:15 AM: Chief Finnerty contacted me and told me he will be stepping down.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Bangor Boro Manager Suffers Massive Heart Attack

Before Christmas, Bangor Borough Manager John Kasten suffered a massive heart attack and is in critical condition at LV Hospital. He is approximately 62 years old and has been at Bangor since 208. Prior to that, he was Slatington's Borough Manager for seven years.

Updated 5 pm: Kasten passed away this afternoon.

Santa Corbett Drops $5.8 MM in Christmas Cheer on NorCo

Our failing schools are just gonna' have to wait. Rich dudes needs our help, too, and that's where Governor Tom Corbett goes to work.

Just two days before Christmas, he sprinkled $133 million in RCAP grants throughout the state. Of course, $23.75 million of that dough is going to Corbett's own county for things like ballet and art studios.

Considering how the Steelers have done this year, maybe ballet is a good idea.

Corbett even remembered Northampton County. Yes, siree. He sent $5 million for billionaire Ed Roski's Majestic project in Bethlehem.  "God bless us every one," said Tiny Roski, as he bought abnother professional ball team

Another $800,00 went to St. Luke's Anderson campus. We all know how hard it must be for St. Luke's to keep adding extensions all over the place.

What about Lehigh County?

You bastards got zip. Christmas coal. Exactly what you deserve for voted for Democrat Tom Muller over Scott "Don't they have family?" Ott.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Salvation Army Vs. The Hasidic Navy



Love this from our Big Brothers. They control the Internet. You can google it!

The Purge Begins

Vic stumping for Team R in the Fall
"The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers."

As reported in The Express Times, incoming Northampton County Exec John Brown seems to be following the bard's advice. Almost all the lawyers in the Solicitor and Public Defender office received their walking papers today.

Republican Vic Scomilio, an excellent attorney who has often been considered a potential judge, has been nominated as Brown's new Solicitor. Vic will take over the reins from Democrat Dan Spengler.

I believe a few Assistant Solicitors have survived, like Dave Backenstoe. Those are political patronage jobs, and they change when party shifts occur. But it would be insane to get rid of the County's best municipal lawyer, especially since he is a Republican.

It is unclear to me whether Brown will also replace the two full-time solicitors, who are career service.

Bob Sletvold reportedly is being considered for the Public Defender slot, where he would replace Mike Corriere. Most of the patronage lawyers there were being given their walking papers on Friday.

Bob is a great lawyer, but I don't know if he wants the job. It creates a conflict. His wife Jennifer was just elected judge. If he is Chief Public Defender, she will be unable to preside over almost all criminal and juvenile matters.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Does Obamacare Endanger Our Children?

One of the the reasons I admire Congressman Charlie Dent is because he has always stood behind and supported Pennsylvania's Children Health Insurance Program (CHIP). This very successful program makes sure every child has quality medical care. But in yet another of the many problems with Obamacare, it appears that program will be gutted. Dent has fired off a letter to Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, asking her to accede to Governor Corbett’s request that the Department work with him to help preserve the program.

“The practical impact of the Health Care law has been to compel thousands of families with income levels between 100% and 133% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) to lose their PA CHIP coverage and be forced into a comparatively substandard Medicaid program,” Rep. Dent stated in a statement released this afternoon.

“CHIP in Pennsylvania is a clear success story,” said the Congressman. “It is lauded as a national model by other states and consistently receives extremely high marks in customer satisfaction surveys,” Dent noted. “Forcing people out of this program and into the comparatively substandard Medicaid program is yet another harmful impact of the President’s Health Care law.”

Rep. Dent was joined by ten fellow Pennsylvania Republicans on the letter. Some of them, including Rep. Dent, voted to establish the PA CHIP law in 1992. Rep. Dent also voted to strengthen and enhance the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) at the federal level.

“President Obama heard the outcry of millions of Americans who lost their coverage as a result of the health care law and was forced to act and grant them the ability to maintain existing coverage. I, and my fellow Representatives, want the same opportunity for the thousands of Pennsylvania families that have received superior care through PA CHIP,” Dent concluded.

DA John Morganelli Says No to Lt. Guv Race

Northampton County DA John Morganelli has decided against running for Lieutenant Governor next year. Here's what he has to say.

"The demands of my job in 2014 makes mounting another statewide campaign difficult. I am scheduled to personally prosecute a capital murder case beginning April 7, (Commonwealth v. Catherine Hein - Defendant killed her new born baby) and I will personally be involved inside the grand jury from January thru March with two major investigations. I look forward to my responsibilities here in Northampton County and I intend to complete the two years left on my current term as District Attorney."

I frankly feel that John is the best DA Northampton County has ever seen, and that includes my father. Very few DAs are actively involved in the prosecution of major cases. But Morganelli has taken at least 25 murder cases to verdict. And his grand jury has been useful for both white collar crime and cold cases. He has done all this on a tight budget as well. There is no doubt in my mind that his tenure as DA has demonstrated his excellent skills as both an administrator and one who is willing to get his hands dirty.

I think he decided against running when I assured him he would win.

He's very smart.

Does this means he runs for Judge? If he runs, he wins. But there are nine judges and only one DA. I see no reason why he shouldn't continue doing what he has done.

Can You Say Councilman Jim Gregory?

Several sources tell me that Jim Gregory, who currently is receiving the hospitality of our state correctional system, is among the applicants for Bob Donchez' job on Bethlehem City Council. The policeman of love, Gregory had the book thrown at him for repeated contempt of a Protection From Abuse Act Order. Over the Summer, both his sister and his ex-girlfriend had to seek judicial protection from physical abuse. At that time, he was also a write-in candidate for Bethlehem Mayor.

After his third contempt conviction, which amazingly included appeals to his ex on a radio show that he purchased, Judge Leonard Zito imposes a 15-month sentence. He found Gregory to be both arrogant and manipulative, even to the point of using county inmates to send letters to his ex. She was even contacted by one of them after his release. Gregory was kind enough to provide her home address.

Gregory believes he is a political prisoner, incarcerated as a result of some scheme involving Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan, Northampton County Executive John Stoffa, DA John Morganelli, the Bethlehem police and yours truly. I may have missed a few of my co-conspirators, but you know who you are.

Gregory has appealed the sentence imposed by Judge Zito.

He did receive four write-in votes in November.

If Council appoints Gregory, they'll have to wait awhile.

I will try to get a copy of his application today.

On a more serious note, here's what I'm hearing. (I have not yet spoken to Council members, who likely are unwilling to discuss this for a blog)

Outgoing DCED Director Joe Kelly already has three votes lined up. His candidacy is apparently being pushed by Bethlehem City Council member Mike Recchiuti, who also chairs the city Democratic committee. Rechhiuti needs four votes, including his own. If he gets that fourth vote, the possibility of an anti-Donchez Council is very real. Incoming Mayor Bob Donchez decided against keeping Kelly in his administration.

You might think that fourth vote would come from J.Willie Reynolds, one of Mayor John Callahan's biggest supporters on Council. But Reynolds apparently is opposed to the idea. Maybe he is concerned that the Council could easily become anti-Callahan. Or maybe he's worried that Kelly is a potential Mayoral rival.

I personally feel Joe should take a sabbatical from City politics. My reason has nothing to do with his qualifications or his attitude, which I've always admired. I just feel he needs a break, and don't see a position on Council doing him any good. He took the Callahan loss hard, and that's the wrong frame of mind to have coming into government.

Is there another interested person?

I'm told Sonia Vazquez, principal at Donegan Elementary School on the City's Southside, is interested. She has devoted her life to children, families, and her community.

I know some may actually dislike seeing another teacher in public office. But she has deep roots in Bethlehem and obviously understands the plight of many struggling families on the South side. She also adds some sorely needed ethnic diversity.

Mayor elect Bob Donchez is reportedly staying away from the decision over his replacement on the board, believing it is Council's call.

Friday, December 20, 2013

A Shit Blockade?

I've told you before that Ron Angle has pissed off about 100,000 Upper Mount Bethel residents. It's Shit Wars! He wants to spread shit on three of his farms, and they say his shit stinks. The Sierra Club's Don Miles thinks it might even be radioactive, and that is certainly true if it's Angle's shit.

In the latest act of aggression, though there's supposed to be a cease fire, the shit haters have blockaded a road to one of Angle's farms with all kinds of signs and rocks.

Even though he owns it. And radioactive Don has sent Angle a missive, by certified mail, claiming that he's trespassing.

Don is a lawyer, too.

It's at trying times like this that I miss Ross Kahler. Before he passed on to the Great Outhouse in Florida, Kahler was Northampton County's Open Space Guru. More importantly, he was the area's leading expert on shit. Not only did he spread it on his Bushkill Township farm, but he testified in a few cases about the differences between pigshit, chicken shit, bullshit and just plain shit.

Unfortunately, Ross developed radiation sickness after he started using Angle's shit, and is no longer with us. He moved off to Florida.

After eight years as County Exec, both Glenn Reibman and John Stoffa have been certified as bullshit detectors. But courts won't let them testify because they are also carriers.

As an award-winning broadcast journalist, I'm going up there this morning to see and chronicle the shit blockade. If I survive, I'll give you a full account on Monday.

Accused Pius X Coach is Bangor Borough Council Member

Both The Express Times and Morning Call are reporting that Stephanie Merlo, a volunteer assistant coach at Roseto's Pius X High School, is accused of having sexual relations with a 17 year old female student. Merlo is also accused of purchasing marijuana for this minor.

Let me supplement those reports by telling you that she is also a member of Bangor Borough Council.  She was appointed to fill the vacancy created when Marino Saveri resigned on September 9.

She filed her Council application just one day after she registered to vote. She was selected over the fire chief, the chair of the Zoning Hearing Board and a civil service board member.

Obviously, the fix was in.

The vote was 2-2-1, with Merlo and the fire chief each getting two votes.

Mayor John Brown, our soon-to-be County Executive, broke the tie in what certainly appears to be a vote for the least qualified person.

My guess is they'll be filling another vacancy soon.

Her Facebook page indicates she is employed at the Sands Casino.

The question in my mind is whether other apples will soon fall from that tree. Based on what I've seen, she may have been at that school for several years.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Zoners Say No to Boarding House on Itaska St

Neighbor Sam Gonzalez
Bethlehem's Zoning Hearing Board have said No to a 5-bedroom boarding house at 601 Itaska Street. y a 4-0 vote at their December 18 hearings, they were unsympathetic to Julio Gonzalez' proposal, especially after he told zoners that he had no parking plan because he disagrees with the law.

Gonzalez already has two apartments at this property. One of them is a small apartment on the first floor. But he told zoners it is very difficult to find responsible tenants for the second apartment, which consists of the second and third floor of the home.

After purchasing the property in 1989, Gonzalez lived on the second and third floor. He moved out four years ago, and has no problem finding tenants, but they are unacceptable.  Gonzalez' daughter, Mayra Antongiorgi added she is a District Court clerk and did background checks on possible renters. She discovered that landlord tenant complaints have been filed against them, calling them "habitual offenders."

Bethlehem's Zoning Ordinance requires on off-street parking spot for each of the rooms rented. Gonzalez insisted that law is unfair, especially since most of his tenants don't drive.

The boarding house proposal was strongly opposed by other nearby property owners.

Sam Gonzalez, no relation to Julio, is a disabled vet who has lived in the area for 15 years. He said there are a lot of problems, and a boarding house will only make it worse. Hospital worker Milagros Rivas told zoners she frequently works night shift and starts to "feel nervous" when she has to walk long distances from her car to her home. She called the proposed boarding house a "revolving door" that will become a major security issue.

Thomas Gilles, a landlord with numerous properties, said he refuses to invest in boarding houses because they only attract "derelicts and drug addicts." He called it an "accident waiting to happen."

Though boarding houses were panned, zoners approved a day care at 1889 Lynnfield Terrace for Community Services for Children. That property, owned by the Bethlehem Housing Authority, is leased to Community Services to provide programs for up to 20 Head Start children.

A PFA Won't Stop A Bullet

A month before a Bethlehem mother was gunned down in front of her three children, she made a public plea for help from the Northampton County judicial system. And she got it. Thida Myint, originally from Myammar, was granted what is called a Protection From Abuse Act Order.

Pennsylvania's Protection From Abuse Act (PFA) was adopted because our criminal law is inadequate for dealing with the violence that sometimes arises in a domestic environment. Police are reluctant to get involved, especially when battered wives drop charges only days after they are filed. So this domestic, non-criminal law was adopted. It includes a temporary protection order, which can be issued based on the testimony of just one person, to provide some basic protection from violence, as well as a cooling off period.

Opponents of this law claim it used as a tool of revenge.

Here are the facts.

1) PFAs have declined in Northampton County. - In 2000, there were 1,238 PFA actions. In 2012, the number was 1,038. Given the change in population, there has been a decrease in people seeking PFAs. In 2000, one out of every 216 people was forced to seek a PFA. But last year, it was only 1 in 288.

2) Over half of the PFAs filed are withdrawn or dismissed. - A study of 200 PFAs filed this year reveals that over half of them (117) are withdrawn, dismissed or just expire. 67 were simply withdrawn, in some cases, even after a final PFA Order has been entered. 43 were outright dismissed for insufficient evidence after hearing. 7 cases, emergency orders from a Magistrate's office, simply expired with no further action.

In many of the withdrawn cases, the files contain photographic evidence, showing that violence did occur.

Judges are reluctant to allow a battered spouse to withdraw a PFA. Judge Paula Roscioli, for example, has denied motions to withdraw PFAs. Senior Judge Lawrence Brenner, the jurist who granted Myint's PFA, also rejects motions to withdraw PFAs.

3) PFAs are often very limited in scope and duration, with the focus on minimizing family violence. - Although a PFA can last as long as three years, judges are reticent to make them last that long, especially when children are involved. They usually impose a shorter duration and often allow limited contact between mothers and fathers for visitation purposes with children.They appear to be particularly concerned about children. In one case, where a mother commented in passing about unexplained bruises on her children, Judge Michael Koury requested that they be brought to him that very day so he could ensure there is no abuse.

4) Some PFAs are agreed orders. 14 of the 200 matters reviewed resulted in agreed PFAs.

5) Contempt of a PFA is uncommon, but not rare. Of 200 cases, contempt proceedings were filed in only 17 of them.

6) Jail is rare. - Of the 200 cases studied, only 2 jail sentences were seen. One was for 24 hours and another was for 90 days.

7) The PFA staff is very helpful. - This staff helps in the preparation of complaints, and accompany parties to the courtroom and ensure that Court Orders are timely delivered to police and Sheriffs.

8) A PFA is no insurance policy. - Myint's husband, Win Win Htut, was ordered to stay away from his wife and their three children. He was ejected from their Central Park Avenue residence in West Bethlehem. Sheriffs were even directed to seize his guns, and they did. After the matter was transferred to Lehigh County, the order was made permanent.

The next day she was killed, allegedly by her husband.

From court documents, these are some of her last words:

"[My daughter] was talking with me about colleges and the cost of going to college. [She] started crying about the situation and her father heard this and he got really mad ... . He stated that we are unlucky and this is why he can not make money doing his job. ... He punched a hole in the living room wall - right next to [my daughter's] head. Then he smashed some glasses in the kitchen by throwing them on the floor. Then he started screaming at [my daughter] to get out of his house and leave. [She] stated she would call police and he yelled at her some more and was cursing at me and yelled at [her] to get back in the living room. He stated that he would kill everyone in the house because he will not be able to control himself. Then he called his parents because he knew that he was out of control. He stated that he does not want to live with us anymore. [My daughter] went downstairs and called police and police came out and police told him to leave for the night. Police advised us to file for a PFA Order -so he can not hurt or threaten us anymore.

"He stated he didn't trust me with the kids and he tried to blame everything on me. We can't leave the house at all. The kids can't go play in the yard or even the balcony. Get questioned for staying after school. Can't see friends outside of school. 

"About 2-3 times a week, he will yell and scream at everyone in the household and then he will break things. He states I hope all of you end up dead. ... I can't even go grocery shopping without him."   

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

NorCo Council: Workhorses, Showhorses & No-Showhorses of 2013

Parsons gives me the hairy eyeball
Who are Northampton County Council's workhorses, showhorses and no-showhorses in 2013? What is their attendance, including Committee participation, where most of the real work is done?

Northampton County Council met 30 times last year, including four budget hearings.

In addition, its committees met 30 times. Each Council member is encouraged to attend those meetings, regardless whether he or she is a voting member. In addition to individual attendance, the committees that do meet are an indication of what issues concern Council members.

As might be expected, Finance and Personnel head that list. They each met 11 times last year. With smooth sailing far from over at Gracedale and a centralized human services building in the works, Human Services was a hot Committee, too, meeting nine times. Other committees conducting meetings were Economic Development (8) and Open Space (2).

Despite numerous questions about the Home Rule Charter, Lamont McClure's Legal Committee has conducted no meetings since 2009. Peg Ferraro's Intergovernmental failed to meet, too. Its had just one meeting in the past 8 years, missing an opportunity to discuss regionalism for certain services like coroner or regional police
.
Below is a table showing attendance at Committee meetings, regular meetings and budget hearings. Scott Parsons, a Wind Gap blue collar worker, is this year's Northampton County Council workhorse. Ironically, Parsons was worried that he'd miss afternoon meetings because of his work schedule

Other workhorses include outgoing Council president John Cusick, Tom Dietrich, Peg Ferraro and Bob Werner. All had a combined attendance record of 90%.

Closely following them is Ken Kraft, with an 88% combined attendance record.  

Three Council members, however, were no-show horses. Barb Thierry (57%) and Bruce Gilbert (40%) get failing grades, and neither sought re-election.

Lamont McClure (43%) has no such excuse. In fact, he was a County Executive candidate this year. He failed to attend a single committee hearing this year, and was only at 2 of 4 budget hearings. His attendance was a campaign issue when he sought re-election in 2010, and was campaign fodder during the Executive primary. .

council members ec. dev.
8 mtgs
human
services
9 mtgs
personnel
and finance
11 meetings
open
space
2 mtgs
council
26 meetings
budget
4 hearings
2013 2012 2011
john cusick 5 5 11 1 25 4 90% 92% 77%
tom dietrich 7 9 9 0 25 4 90% 84% 75%
peg ferraro 8 7 8 1 25 3 90% 85% 67%
bruce gilbert 1 0 2 0 21 0 40% 48% 53%
ken kraft 7 8 10 0 24 4 88% 84% n/a
lamont mcclure 0 0 0 0 24 2 43% 47% 41%
scott parsons 5 9 10 2 26 3 92% 89% n/a
barb thierry 1 2 8 0 21 2 57% 58% 55%
bob werner 8 7 9 1 25 4 90% 82% n/a


Christmas City Giving Hanover Lump of Coal

Joe Kelly discusses Bethlehem recycling facility
Hanover Township residents have received two Christmas presents this year. The one they like is the seventh no tax-hike budget in a row from Supervisors, who approved their spending plan for next year at their December 17 meeting. But the other gift is more like a lump of coal, in the form of a 18.4% proposed water rate hike from Bethlehem. Supervisors are weighing their options, which do include a possible complaint with the Public Utility Commission. They did end their meeting by going into into executive session, but it's unclear whether this private meeting concerned the water rate proposal or some other matter.

Michael Prendeville, who lives on Karen Drive, urged Supervisors to complain to the PUC, adding that he intends to do so himself. "The no new tax pledge of the outgoing Mayor was just shifted to the utility board," he complained. Supervisor Steve Salveson added that he is getting numerous calls from residents. "It's good to know there are citizens who are concerned about it," noted Chairman John Diacogiannis.

Township Manager Jay Finnigan told Supervisors about several exchanges he had with Bethlehem's Water and Sewer Director, David Brong. He learned that the $1.1 million rate increase proposed by Bethlehem is the equivalent of 0.78 mills in Bethlehem taxes. Hanover will contribute $277,512 to the increase. Most of the money will come from residential customers, not businesses.

Prendeville had earlier told Supervisors that Bethlehem was paying down its deficit "on the backs of Hanover Township's people."

Bethlehem's current annual residential cost is $321.06, already the highest annual cost of the Lehigh Valley's three cities. Allentown's annual cost is just $273.32, while Easton Suburban charges $307.66. If the rate hike is granted, Bethlehem will charge residential customers $380.17.

Supervisors have until January 25, 2014, to appeal the proposed rate hike.

Ironically, Bethlehem's outgoing Director of Economic Development, Joe Kelly, was at the meeting, too. But he was there to review plans to expand the recycling facility, and left before the discussion turned to the Christmas City.

Public Works Director Vince Milite, a fixture at most meetings, was in a plow truck as a result of some last-minute squalls. Finnigan told Supervisors he just ordered  250 tons of road salt. "If you know anyone who can invoke novenas, we could use the help," he concluded.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Will Colonial Regional Police Remain Regional?

(The Colonial Region Police Commission includes, standing, from left to right, Mark Saginario (Bath), Bob Fields (Bath), Jim Pennington (L. Nazareth), and Eric Nagle (L. Nazareth). Seated, from left to right, are Chairman Glenn Walbert (Hanover) and John Diacogiannis (Hanover).

At a time when regionalized police forces are becoming more common, Lower Nazareth Supervisors are having second thoughts about their participation in the Colonial Region Police Department. They like the service, but not the cost. They've already rejected a $3.39 million police budget proposed for next year. This operates as a notice of intent to withdraw in a year if the problems remain unresolved. Whether that occurs was the topic of a police commission meeting on December 12, attended by several officers concerned about their livelihoods.

The sticking point? This budget calls for a $1,122,450 contribution from Lower Nazareth, which is $44,481 more than this year.

This six-member board includes two members from Bath Borough as well as Lower Nazareth and Hanover Townships. Chaired by Glenn Walbert, they provide the oversight for a 25-man force that has existed since 1995. Commission member Eric Nagle, who chairs the Lower Nazareth Board, explained that his Township wants "to go through an analysis to look at alternatives." He added, "We're backed into a 5% increase every year." While expressing admiration for the officers on the force, Nagle stated flatly, "We're not going to increase taxes to pay for police services," complaining that Lower Nazareth's additional revenue is eaten up by increased police costs. He also objected to Chief Roy Seiple's plan to expand the force gradually to 30 police officers.

Nagle reasoned that a regionalized force should be more efficient. "The question is, is it still effective? That's what we need to analyze."

Nagle's concerns were echoed by Jim Pennington, another Lower Nazareth Supervisor doing double duty on the police commission. He suggested that the police department should consider employing part-time police officers or "public safety officers" for minimal duties like traffic control.

"We have to be creative when we come up with budgets," argued Pennington.

Both Pennington and Nagle agreed that Lower Nazareth has experienced an surge in police activity. That appears to be related to the Wal Mart, Kohls and Wegmans on Route 248. Chief Seiple pointed out that 13 of the 20 arrests in Lower Nazareth in November were for shoplifting at those stores.

With the shoplifting comes counterfeiting. Seiple said his officers broke up a Reading-based counterfeiting ring that was passing $100 bills at these stores.

Police board Chair Glenn Walbert, who serves on Hanover's Board of Supervisors, noted that Lower Nazareth did approve a budget that continued to fund of the Colonial Region Police Department at its 2013 level. He suggested reducing the police department's budget to the 2013 level, which could be accomplished by delaying the hire of a new police officer by four months.

Walbert told Nagle the commission is open to discussions with Lower Nazareth.

Nagle promised to take the proposal back to his board and get an answer in early January.

Seiple asked Nagle to request an answer from Lower Nazareth Supervisors as soon as is convenient, "so we don't keep officers in suspense for six months." Seiple warned, "We got these guys sitting here, and they're going to start looking for jobs."

Chief Seiple proposed doubling the storage fee for impounded vehicles, from $15 to $30 per day. That suggestion passed unanimously.

He also told the Commission that Wal Mart and Wegmans, when requesting police coverage, is billed $67 per hour for each officer.

Finally, he filled the Commission in on a recent prostitution sting at a local hotel that netted seven Johns.

"None that you know," he added.

The Great Escape

Well, I really blew this one. My Nazareth estate is located very close to District Judge John Capobiaco's courtroom. If the wind blows just right, I can sometimes hear him pronounce, "Guilty, twenty years in the electric chair" on some hapless Defendant. I thought I saw something going on today as my servants carried me to my car, but I was late for a very important date. I paid no attention. So I missed the Great Escape from Judge Capobianco.

This escape artist apparently took off in a getaway car left there by his girlfriend. It's a 1993 Toyota Camry with damages to the front end.

I drive a 1993 Toyota Camry with damages to the front, side and rear. What's more, the meeting I covered last night was at the Colonial Regional Police Department.

Fortunately, I was not arrested. Chief Seiple told me his officers recovered the car outside the Fox strip club in Bath.

I was not scheduled to perform there last night.

Controversial Deputy Leaves NorCo Employment

Northampton County Sgt Mark Keels, a Deputy Sheriff who supervises other Deputies, was either terminated or voluntarily resigned on Friday. His nickname at the courthouse was "little Napoleon".

My guess is he won't be missed.

Keels first gained notoriety when he sued DA John Morganelli for a civil rights violation. Morganelli was looking for a Detective, and Keels was one of the applicants. He felt he was looked over because he is black. Never mind that the successful applicant, and one who just happens to be Hispanic, outscored him on written tests. Never mind that Morganelli is the County's first to hire a black assistant DA. Rather than litigate the matter, the County's insurer threw money at Keels, and he went away.

But not far enough. The former prison guard became a Deputy Sheriff. Then he became a Sergeant.

During the Gracedale referendum lawsuit, Keels actually yanked me out of a courtroom while I was trying the case. He claimed that I was secretly filming the proceedings on my dumb phone, which had no camera. I produced it, and he was satisfied.  But then he returned and took my coffee thermos, which apparently is a breach of courtroom security. That nearly killed me, especially since I invert that and run it intravenously throughout the day.

I know Keels gained more friends by writing up other Deputies for not aggressively searching everyone who walks into the courthouse, even some more grandma' who is just there to be her tax bill.  One can never be too careful, I guess. He used to really love searching me. He'd start touching my legs and shit and would empty my belongings and inspect them carefully ... until I told him I loved it and blew him a kiss.

Actually, sometimes I do sneak a peck.

I smell another civil rights lawsuit.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Time For a County-Wide Police Force?

Though it's by no means clear whether Deputy Sheriffs are bona fide police officers, courts are definitely moving in that direction. County Executive Elect John Brown advocated regionalization of police departments when he was Bangor Mayor, so the time might be ripe to consider a county-wide police department.

Lower Nazareth Township Supervisors are upset at the rising costs of police coverage. Plainfield Township just fired its Chief. West Easton is scrambling to form its own police department. Easton dropped the tiny borough over the cost of responding to daily complaints from and about common scold Tricia Mezzacappa. Nazareth has always been a hotbed of police controversy, probably because I live there. In all these places, as well as numerous localities that irresponsibly have no police coverage at all, a regional force is the way to go.

This is by no means my idea. Former Council members Mike Dowd and Ron Angle embraced it. So does current Council member Scott Parsons, who can relate his experiences from Wind Gap, whjere he served as President of Borough Council.

Former Executive Gerald (Jerry) Seyfried has long advocated for a study to see if a County Wide Police Force could provide services more efficiently while reducing the costs to the taxpayers. He tells me,

"I still think this study should be done. I advocated for the Northampton County Municipal Conference to be reinstituted. "Section 1309" entitled "Municipal Conference" under the "Transitional Provisions of The Home Rule Charter" sets some guidelines and parameters for the Municipal Conference to function. This would have been a great project for Council to undertake.

"There are several municipalities that do not have police protection and rely on the state police for protection. The study would look at the overall costs and determine if there could be any savings by forming a regional "County wide" police department. They could also provides numerous upgrades and I would even bet that they would probably get a grant to study the concept.

"It doesn't cost anything to look at it and share the findings with the taxpayers. They could even put it on the ballot for consideration. The time is ripe."

Muller to Replace Iannelli on Airport Board

Tony denies he will be going into shit biz with Angle
Lehigh Valley International Airport, plagued by both declining passenger traffic and a $26 million judgment, is going to have to seek a new Chair for its 15-member governing board. Tony Iannelli, the current current captain of this sinking ship, is being replaced.

Lehigh County Executive-elect Tom Muller has advised Commissioners that he plans to replace Iannelli with one of their own, Mike Schware. They must approve this appointment, and I understand the matter has already been listed for January 8.

The airport board has come under fire by Northampton County Council members Bob Werner, Scott Parsons, John Cusick and Peg Ferraro in recent months, especially over plans to sell Braden Airpark in Forks Township. In adopting their most recent budget, Council unanimously rejected a request from the airport for $250,000. Plans to sell Queen City Airport, which have been shelved, angered many in Lehigh County.

But this same Council also recently re-appointed Lehigh Valley Partnership point man, Bert Daday, to the board.

Unanimously.

Even though he's 758 years old.

Iannelli is the CEO and President of the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce, hosts Business Matters on WFMZ-TV69 and was even an ice hockey ref.

Not sure how Tony feels about this, but if I were he, I'd be delighted.

This "international" airport has been little more than a monument to the egos inside the unelected aristocracy known as the Lehigh Valley Partnership. In their latest trick, they've hired a consultant to tell them that the shrinking passenger base is really a good thing.

Don't worry. Be happy.

Imagine if a publicly-held private sector company sent out a press release saying, "Sure, we're shrinking, but we're OK with that." At the very next stockholders' meeting, that management team would be out. Faster than you can say Business Matters.

Maybe, just maybe, they should look at the noncompetitive prices of flights out of ABE, the frequent delays suffered by BE passengers, high parking fees and the lack of marketing to the business traveler. What's the draw?

MOW Teams Up With Subaru For Hungry Seniors

Meals on wheels?
Bethlehem, PA (December 12, 2013 – January 2, 2014) – Meals On Wheels of Northampton County is proud to announce its partnership with Faulkner Subaru in Bethlehem this holiday season to help put an end to senior hunger. Meals On Wheels will be “Stuffing a Subaru” with white paper bags depicting their cold bag dinners. Customers can guess how many stuffed white bags are in the car at the Faulkner Subaru dealership. The person guessing the number correctly wins a prize assortment of gift cards and items.

 This local effort is part of the Meals On Wheels Association of America’s participation in the national Subaru of America, Inc. “Share the Love” event, designed as a way for Subaru dealers to give back to their local communities.

The Subaru “Share the Love” event for Meals On Wheels of Northampton County runs from December 12, 2013 to January 2, 2014.  The dealer will donating $250 for every new Subaru vehicle sold or leased during “Share the Love” to the customer's choice of charity, including Meals On Wheels. Over the past six years, proceeds from the Subaru “Share the Love” event have provided funds to support the Meals On Wheels vision to end senior hunger.

In addition, the county MOW id eligible for a grant of up to $35,000. This can provide much needed support to help provide nutritious meals to homebound seniors in Northampton County.

"We are honored to be part of ‘Share the Love’ for a sixth straight year," said Association President and CEO Ellie Hollander. "Subaru recognizes the importance of giving back to the communities it serves. Working together, Meals On Wheels and Subaru are helping to provide more than just a meal; we’re bringing warmth and compassion to so many hungry and homebound seniors who would otherwise go without.”

Friday, December 13, 2013

Snow Emergency Declared in Hanover Tp

This can't be good.

Hanover Township (Northampton County) has already announced a snow emergency effective at 9:00 a.m. on Saturday, December 14, 2013 through 12 Noon on Sunday, December 15, 2013.

Parking on all Township streets is prohibited during an emergency. Violators could be fined $50.

$5.5 Million Treatment Program Approved For Inmates

Over Lamont McClure's claims that it's unnecessary, Northampton County Council has approved a $5.5 million program designed to prevent inmates from returning to jail. At their December 12 meeting, by a 5-1 vote, Council approved a five-year contract with Community Education Centers to provide substance abuse programs called the Future Foundation program for men, Sister to Sister program for women and the West Easton Treatment Facility program.

"It's a lotta' money," complained McClure, who said prison policy should be decided by the next administration. "I've seen no evidence that is justified," he added. He argued that education, not treatment, is what reduces recidivism, noting that 1/3 of the inmates have no high school diploma. Corrections Director Arnie Matos countered that he has seen jails with and without treatment programs.

"This way works," he insisted.

"You're wrong," answered McClure.

Council member Tom Dietrich worried that that they were setting prison policy for the next administration. "You can cancel this with three months notice. What are you talking about?" answered Stoffa.

Matos told Council of one suicidal female inmate who went through the Community Education Center program and claimed it saved her life and gave her a reason to live.

"How do I put a price on that?" he asked.

Unmoved, McClure said the treatment could be done by volunteers at no cost to the County. But he was a minority of one. The contract was approved by John Cusick, Tom Dietrich, Peg Ferraro, Scott Parsons and Bob Werner.  Barb Thierry, Bruce Gilbert and Ken Kraft were absent.

In their final act of business of the year, Council appropriated $5,000 grants from their contingency fund for the following:

* Stephen's Place, a halfway house for non-violent males recovering from addiction;
* Slate Belt YMCA, which is under construction;
* The Miracle League, which allows differently abled children to experience the joy of baseball;
* Pennsylvania Water Rescue, which performs rescue operations along the Lehigh and Delaware Rivers; and
* College Hill Neighborhood Association, for improvements to Nevin and Eddyside Parks.

The John Stoffa Legacy

Barbara Stoffa will get her husband back after eight years
He's pulled his last weed.

As an 8 year old farm boy, John Stoffa was assigned the task of pulling ragweed from his father's cornfield. One was particularly troublesome, but the boy persisted and it finally came out.

That farm boy would go on to become Northampton County Executive. On December 12, he attended his last Council meeting as the County's highest elected official, finishing eight years in office. It was the first time he was accompanied by his wife, Barbara. "He would never let me come before," she explained.

Normally laconic during meetings, Stoffa itemized some of his accomplishments during his two terms in office. "Northampton County is a wonderful place to live," he explained. "Our job is to keep it that way." Stoffa, who provided an office to incoming Executive John Brown to help with the transition, wished his successor luck over the next four years. But Stoffa cautioned everyone against treating government like a business. He said good government occurs when people work together, like during an Amish barnraising.  "They can do in one weekend what takes government a year," he said.

What did Stoffa do over the last eight years?

Basic maintenance. - Courthouse elevators that broke down nearly every day now operate flawlessly. Nursing home windows that had been leaking since the '70s, are now working properly. He fixed the cupola over the courthouse, and restored the building. At county nursing home Gracedale, where one oil tanker was needed every three days, Stoffa converted those furnaces to gas.

The Milides Building Purchase. - Located across the street from the courthouse, this purchase gave the County 60 additional parking spots. It is also home to the Elections Office and Controller.

Recycling. - When Stoffa first assumed office in 2006, the County did not recycle paper. Now there is single stream recycling as well as two annual events for the community.

John Stoffa seems to recognize that guy.
Open Space. - John Stoffa was elected on a pledge to raise taxes a half mill to preserve open space. Preserved farmland has gone from 6,700 acres to 13,007 acres. His program has enabled the County to purchase land next to Housenick Park, which Stoffa calls the "Central Park of the Lehigh Valley." It funded Wayne Grube Park in East Allen Township. Though the County will lose 500 acres of farmland to developer Charles Chrin for a Route 33 Interchange at Tatamy, it will get than land back. Stoffa praised former Councilman Ron Angle for brokering a $2 million donation from Chrin that will enable the County to preserve another 500 acres of farmland.

Archives. - Under a previous administration, the County demolished its state-of-the art archives building for a prison expansion. It was paying $100,00 per year to house its historical records in another County. But in April, a new archives building was dedicated in Forks Township, including climate-controlled high-density shelving and a public reading room.

New Corrections Policy. - "Build programs, not cells," said Stoffa, noting the increased use of treatment to stop the jail from becoming a revolving door. The recidivism rate, i.e. the rate at which offenders return to the County jail, hovered around 69% when Stoffa assumed office. That rate is now down to 35.9% at the jail, according to Corrections Supervisor Arnie Matos. That lower rate translates to saved county tax dollars. Stoffa noted over 400 people volunteer their time at the jail, now considered one of the best in the state.

West Easton Treatment Center. - This work release facility, which can house up to 100 inmates, is used as both a work release and treatment facility for low level drunk drivers.

Bridges. - Thanks to a $19.6 million bond floated by Council in July, the County can begin repairs on 16 of its most critical bridges over the next three years.

Stoffa portrait includes courthouse cupola in background
Centralized Human Services Building. - In March, Northampton County will open a new, centralized human services building along Emrick Road in Bethlehem Township. Human services had been divided between the Governor Wolf Building in Easton and the Bechtel Building in Bethlehem. Thise buildins have been sold. "This was never just about a building," noted Stoffa. "It was about the people," he said referring to 18,000 consumers of human services county wide. "There will be one number you can call to get help," he added.

Retirement Fund. - The fund for County retirees has exploded from a low of $160 million to$328 million. Last year, it earned 17% in interest. Northampton County is also the first in the state to establish a separate trust for other post-employment benefits, called OPEB. That fund is at $24 million and generated 18.6% in interest last year.

Tax Hikes. - Aside from the half mill tax hike he promised before being elected in 2006, Stoffa proposed no tax increases during his eight years in office. But he believes they are a fact of life. "Raising taxes in small amounts is not the end of the world," he said.

Stoffa's Regrets. - Stoffa regretted not moving earlier on the swaption, a complicated financial deal he inherited from a previous administration that ended up costing the County $25 million. He called it a "cancerous sale." He never mentioned his failed sale of Gracedale, but in a speech to a statewide association of county commissioners earlier in the month, he said he rushed things.

After the meeting was over, his cabinet took him to see a portrait prepared by local artist Tom Burke. Stoffa initially refused to have a portrait done, then agreed if it could be done like a Picasso. He finally relented when a local artist was selected.

Stoffa now will resume his quest of building 500 birdhouses. He's at 282.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

How J.B. Reilly and Joe Topper Bought the NorCo Exec Seat


Allentown's controversial Neighborhood Improvement Zone is Senator Pat Browne's gift to his childhood chum, J.B. Reilly. Thanks to that state law, millionaire Reilly and his millionaire partner, Joe Topper, have a good shot at becoming billionaires. In Allentown, they are using state tax revenues to fund improvements within a 130-acre special tax zone created just for them. They will benefit immensely. The rest of us? Not so much. You'll be happy to know that Reilly has expanded his claws beyond Allentown to the center of Northampton County government. He just bought the Executive seat. Let me tell you the story.

The original draft of the NIZ law, which really was overlooked by most state legislators, was so broad that Reilly could even use the tax revenues owed to other municipalities to erect his pyramids. He already has lured other Lehigh Valley businesses with subsidized rents subsidized with revenues that should be spent on Allentown's failing schools.

Some townships sued. Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan did not, but did complain about its size and its adverse impact on his own City. Callahan's empty Martin Tower is just a stone's throw away. Who the Hell would go there when Reilly is robbing education funds for subsidized tenants in his buildings?

Callahan's criticism, mild as it was, angered Allentown Mayor Edwin "call me Guv'" Pawlowski. More importantly, it angered Reilly's urban growth regime and the unelected aristocrats in the Lehigh Valley who rule through tools like Pawlowski.

Reilly and Topper needed to take Callahan out. They used the one weapon they have - money. In the closing days of the NorCo Exec race between Callahan and John Brown, they funneled $50,000 into Brown's coffers. They made sure to wait until the final reporting period so that the rest of us would have no clue that the Executive seat was being bought. But now that the reports are out, I have finally connected the dots.

In the closing days of the Executive race, while most of us were paying attention to the Scott Ott v. Tom Muller campaign, mischief was afoot in Northampton County. Suddenly, Callahan was ambushed out of the blue with TV ads and mailers featuring John Brown. Where did this money come from? Brown's pre-election report made him appear like a David facing Goliath. The money was already there and being spent. It just wasn't in Brown's coffers.

According to campaign finance reports filed by the Republican State Committee of Pa., Reilly donated $25,000 to the Republican party on October 14. That same day, Reilly partner Joe Topper kicked in another $25,000. Interestingly, on a report for the entire state party, Reilly and Topper are the only individuals listed in this reporting period. Obviously, they weren't supporting Philadelphia candidates. Their money was intended for Brown. The rest of the state party's money comes from PACs and candidate campaigns.

And guess what? John Brown's post-election report, filed last week, discloses $41,217.12 in last-minute, in-kind contributions from the Republican Party of Pa.

Reilly and Topper could not risk giving it to Brown directly. That would be too obvious and Northampton County residents would resent Lehigh  County developers coming in and taking over. So they laundered the money via the state party. This is perfectly legal. Both parties do it. But it's no way to claim transparency.

Brown has been reluctant to identify his transition team or name his new cabinet. Now you know why. Reilly is obviously involved. He's in the shadows, but he's there.

The state party also gave Council candidate Peg Ferraro $1,000.

So there you have it. The Northampton County Executive seat is firmly in the grasp of Lehigh County developers who are already sucking state tax dollars out of Allentown. I'm sure we have no reason to worry.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Ferraro Sole No Vote On Retiree COLAs

For those of you who think Peg Ferraro is a bleeding heart, or that she is unable to vote alone on an issue, think again.

Before the election, Northampton County Council member Peg Ferraro was one of the few Republicans at a luncheon for NorCo government retirees. But last week, at a retirement board meeting, she was the sole No vote on a cost of living adjustment for county retirees. There was no press coverage, so few people would know this until now.

Her rationale was that nobody else is getting a COLA.

The County's pension fund, which has doubled since 2008, is why they are getting a COLA. It is one of the top performing funds in the state.

Ferraro also lobbied to have the pension fund manager replaced with someone more to her own liking, even though he refuses to execute a County contract. That bothers me more than her No vote. You'll recall she also refused to give up the transportation contract with Nazareth Ambulance at Gracedale

Ferraro is in line to be Northampton County Council's next President.

Correction: Peg wants to replace the investment manager for the Hugh Moore Trust, not the Retirement Fund

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Obamacare Web Page Finally Working

Don't believe me? Check it here. Just click on "Apply Now."

U Mt Bethel Tired of Angle's Shit

Ron Angle is back in full form
All they needed was a rope. Nearly 300 people braved the icy roads to invade the Mount Bethel Volunteer Fire Company on Monday night, with one and only one thing on their minds - Ron Angle. They're tired of his shit. Mad enough to sue. They browbeat  Upper Mount Bethel Township Supervisors into voting unanimously to seek a restraining order against Angle's plan to spread sludge on some of his farmlands. Their Solicitor and one Supervisor argued it was a waste of taxpayer money, especially since they've already lost a case in the state Supreme Court on this very issue. But the crowd was having none of that. "Show some balls!" shouted someone in the audience.

Though state law allows Angle to spread shit on his farmlands, it's not playing well with people living nearby. They probably know what shit is like. They worry about the biohazards. Sue DeGenero, who organized most of the opposition, said that shit smells really bad. In fact, she went on a shit smelling field trip to Lower Mount Bethel Township, and it took two days to get the shit smell out of her car. Either that, or it was that burrito she had for lunch earlier in the week. DeGenero also told Supervisors that shit will reduce the value of their homes. She complained that her Township is "being turned into a hazardous waste dump site."

DeGenero then called on some dude who works for the John Hanger for Governor campaign. When she asked for Hanger, she probably thought some guy would come with a hood to help lynch Angle. Instead, it was a politico who got up and basically said nothing.

They strung him up.

This is one helluva' turnout
After this came Shawna Flyte, who actually has already taken her six children and moved out of the Township to Bangor. She previously told Channel 69 that her "mama bear claws" were out, and said shit is really dangerous and she's learned that by researching the matter on the Internet until 3 and 4 am. "One person should not have this much power over everybody," she insisted. "I don't care who you are or how much money you have because I love Mount Bethel."

Tony Scott proposed a solution. He suggested that, instead of using the Township open space money to buy swamp land, they should use it to buy fertilizer for farmers who promise to stay away from shit. "Instead of preserving water and soil for the salamander, preserve water and soil for the people," he argued.

Chairman Judy Henckel told Scott that is impossible.

Supervisors listen to complaints about sludge
All of this talking about shit got me going, and I decided to use the facilities. Unfortunately, though, the toilet was clogged up with human waste. I could swear I heard it talking, and left.

Then I got really scared because Don Miles was next. He's with the Sierra Club, and warned everyone about the dangers of shit. In fact, we should probably stop wiping our asses or we'll all die.

Miles mentioned that, though the EPA and DEP does check shit for some toxins, it does not test for others. It could even be radioactive, for all he knows.

He must have seen some of my work.

But you will be pleased to know there's no shit in Heinz ketchup. Miles reported they won't buy from farms that use shit. They only use the finest quality illegal alien to make their ketchup, a special breed that does not even shit.

Then Angle himself, the Evil One, got up to speak. "Hysteria's a wonderful thing," he started, but the catcalls and shouts were too much. He put on the cowboy hat that Abe Atiyeh gave him and left.

Don Miles warns about radioactive shit
At this point, Rick Fisher addressed the audience, telling them that Synagro shit spreaders do follow state regulations, and their biosolids are tested. He explained it's a matter of risk management. Human sewage dumped into the sea or burned creates health concerns. Concentrating it into a landfill causes problems, too. He said that, as a matter of risk management, a farmer's field "is the best place to put it that has the least impact on people."

Then Fisher was lynched.

While they were stringing him up, I went to the bathroom again, and the plugged up shit was all gone. Angle apparently took it and was spreading it on one of his fields.

When I got back to the meeting, Supervisor Jerry Geake was having a Dutch uncle talk with the mob.

"I sat on this board when we took this case to the Supreme Court and lost. We lost every inch of the way. You want me to just spend your money?"

"We're worth it," was the mob's answer.

Solicitor Ron Karasek agreed with Geake, noting he heard no legal basis for a temporary restraining order.

Rick Fisher gives unbiased view before being lynched
"You gotta' buck the system," shouted the mob, before also asking Supervisors to free Barabbas.

So Supervisors bent to the will of the mob and voted unanimously to seek a Temporary Restraining Order against Angle, knowing they have no basis.

Pleased with themselves, the crowd started leaving. But after they filed out, Angle returned.

"You were ruled by a hysterical crowd, not by good judgment and a learned solicitor," he told them.

"We're all gonna' die and our hair will fall out and our toenails will curl up," Angle scoffed of the complaints concerning biosolids. He told Supervisor he really has no opinion on the topic, and was there to discuss options until the crowd became insulting.

"He demanded to know the grounds for the TRO. "What are you injuncting me from?" he asked.

"I have no idea," answered Geake.

"I'm not here to screw up the land," Angle observed. "I've got a lot of money tied up in it." He added he makes no money from the biosolids, and just gives his tenant farmers the option of using sludge if that is their choice.

He said Supervisors need to do something to help the farmers. He noted the township used to be full of dairy farms, and now it is down to about two of them. He added that corn prices dropped in half in just one year.

"We're screwing the farmers." he added.

He said the Township should consider using some of the money it collects to buy swamp land to help the farmers. Instead, "you're spending the taxpayers' money to appease a hysterical crowd on law that's clear.

Solicitor Ron Karasek agreed that he would not file an action for injunctive relief until January 15, and during that time, Angle agreed he would spread no sludge.

Blogger's Note: I am teasing this crowd, but want to compliment them for showing an interest. You won't see a crowd like that anywhere but in Upper Mount Bethel. They have no TV reception.

Monday, December 09, 2013

You're a Mean One, Mr. Kraft

On Thursday night, in perhaps one of the most mean-spirited moves I've witnessed in my years of watching Northampton County Council, I watched them unanimously fire the mail room supervisor. They don't really have the power to fire her, so they defunded the position instead. Right before Christmas. When she got up to defend herself, she was told to sit down. She was denied due process, a right guaranteed by the United States Constitution. The same body that had a shit fit when a vendor committed a technical violation of the Administrative Code, thinks that it's perfectly fine to trample the country's founding document.

Under the United States Constitution, the government cannot take our lives, liberty or property without due process of law. That's what sets government employees apart. They can't be fired or even be required to accept a significant pay cut without notice and an opportunity to be heard, unless it is an economic decision that affects everyone, as sometimes happens when people are laid off.

Before the government can shitcan or demote you, you have the right to what is sometimes called a Loudermill hearing, based on the Supreme Court decision recognizing that there is such a thing as due process for public employees..

When County Council on Thursday night defunded the mail room supervisor position, Ken Kraft's asserted there are "too many chiefs" and the position is redundant. He questioned this employee's qualifications as well. There is no position into which she can "bump". She was effectively fired. Kraft stated before the hearing that he was once fired at Christmastime, so I guess this is his payback.

Enclosed are some of my emails to Council, along with Kraft's replies.

Council,

Whatever savings you gained by defunding the mail room supervisor position on Thursday night, they will be more than offset by the money she is awarded when she sues you. It is clear to me, and I am sure your Solicitor will agree, that your mean-spirited action was a blatant violation of the procedural due process rights owed to the person you effectively fired. Merry Christmas.

I will refrain from getting into the obvious motives of a Council member who is also a union agent in advocating the elimination of a supervisory non-union position. I will not explore the attempts by Peg Ferraro to penalize the current mail room supervisor for the perceived sins of her predecessor. None of that matters. What does matter is that you fired a County employee at Christmas time without notice or an opportunity to be heard. In fact, when this 3-year employee attempted to defend herself, you told her to sit down, denying her the right to speak to a matter that directly affected her.

You were willing to engage in all kinds of back channel chatter about this person behind her back. But none of you had the basic integrity and decency to answer the insinuations and accusations you were making about her.

Instead of acting like a governing body, your actions are more akin to a star chamber that decides guilt or innocence without any evidentiary foundation. What you did to this person can be repeated against other employees who may rub you the wrong way.

Fortunately, the rights of this person and other citizens are protected under the United States Constitution. You, as the government, are prohibited from taking the life, liberty or property of a person without due process of law.

If you really are interested in saving money and wish to avoid a lawsuit, I suggest that you reverse course at your meeting this week.

You should all be ashamed of yourselves. I know I am ashamed and disgusted by each of you.

Kraft replies:

I do not like being falsely accused, we eliminated the funding of this position simply because it is no longer needed. I will not tolerate this accusatory type of email. It is our duty as a body to fund positions that are needed and to defund positions when they are no longer beneficial to the County. This is our job.

Moi:

Really? It is your job as a union agent to make sure you have union work. If you were really interested in saving money, you would not have insisted on a PLA at the new human services building.

I'd like to know what money you saved by opening up the county to a civil rights lawsuit based on a flagrant violation of procedural due process rights. Your actions were so despicable that I could see punitive damages.

The county just settled a civil rights claim predicated on your treatment of another employee. I can see you have learned nothing.

As a union agent, it is your job to screw nonunion employees. You refused to even look at the memo she prepared, and were too much of a coward to let her address you, face to face, as you tried to fire her.

Your actions, and those of the eight council members who went along with refusing to even let this woman speak, are shameful. More importantly, they violated the Constitution. I hope you have a Merry Christmas knowing that you fired someone without even listening to her side of the story.

You should be embarrassed. You should. I am embarrassed that people like you speak for me.

Oh, and Merry Christmas.

There were a few more exchanges, but I think you get the point. Not one other Council member bothered to respond. They were probably Christmas shopping.

The three words that best describe Kraft
are, and I quote: "Stink. Stank. Stunk."