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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Friday, May 30, 2014

Summer Hoops Under Way

Instead of going to a meeting, I spent last night at Allentown's Cedar Beach Park. Local high school teams were playing basketball, and it cost nothing to watch. Teams came from all over the Lehigh Valley. I saw Saucon Valley, Freedom, Easton, Liberty and Emmaus, to name a few. But I was there primarily to watch Becahi and Whitehall.

Many varsity basketball players also play football, and their coaches won't release them from the weight room for these games. So they arrive late, or not at all. But that's good news for 8th graders like Mikey Esquilin (left) and Dat Lambert (right). They both not only played, but even started. That's the beauty of Summer Hoops, when the coaches and kids are more relaxed, more willing to try different things, more willing to have fun.

Mikey and Dat are both point guards, and have been playing with or against each other since first grade. Over the years, they've become great friends. But all that goes out the window when they face each other. They had a blast, and also play on the freshman and JV teams, along with AAU. They basically play 6 days a week. They are lucky, too, because they both have had plenty of support from people who, unlike me, know how to play the sport.

Dat's first baptism into basketball came at the hands of Rodney Robinson. He taught him to dribble with his left hand by tying his right hand behind his back. Judge Emil Giordano, who really should give up the judge biz fir professional coaching, was next. He taught Dat how to steal. Dat also played under cerebral Craig Golden for the 'Canes. He taught Dat to use his head on the court. Chuck Rockmore, whose Wall2Wall teams have won multiple tournaments, taught Dat enthusiasm. His biggest supporter, however, has been his mother. She gets him to all these practices.

Mikey has had different coaches, including his Dad and a Salvation Army coach who never lost a game. His mom and grandmother are at every game, rooting him on.

Last night, Rodney watched Dat play. "Keep your head up," he'd remind him."Don't lose that dribble too soon," whatever that means.

I take pictures.

Whitehall drubbed Becahi in this game, though nobody seemed to notice the score. Dat blamed his new shoes. He and Mikey skipped off to the playground (at least that's what they said) while parents gossiped.
He's definitely getting a lot bigger than his mom. 
I did give Dat a few pointers, too, but I had no idea what I was talking about. Dat politely listened.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

ASD Ass't Principal Loses Demotion Suit in Commonwealth Court

A former Allentown School District assistant principla, James C. Dotterer, has lost his demotion challenge in Commonwealth Court. In 2011, while on medical leave after shoulder surgery, Superintendent Russell Mayo demoted him from assistant principal, where he was paid $100,500 annually, to a $80,000 teaching job. He eventually retired and sued.

Judge Robert Simpson, a former Northampton County jurist, ruled that Dotterer was barred from seeking judicial relief by the School Code, which establishes its own review system.

Pa. Supremes: "False Confession" Experts Inadmissible

Bucking a trend in other jurisdictions, a divided Pennsylvania Supreme Court today decided that the use of experts who pontificate that a Defendant's confession was falsely induced by police, is inadmissible. Speaking for the Court, Jutice Seamus McCaffrey called it an "impermissible invasion of the jury’s role as the exclusive arbiter of credibility." It's a 4-2 decision with two concurring opinions, along with a dissent.

In this case, a Defendant with a low IQ and mental health issues, confessed to a bar shooting after six hours of police interrogation.

In his dissent, Justice Saylor said he would "trust our trial judges to make fair and just decisions on admissibility of expert evidence, knowing full well that there will be inconsistencies which will need to be addressed by the appellate courts in the developing decisional law."

Despite NIZ, Allentown Shrinking

Despite all the tax incentives of the NIZ and attempts to poach businesses from other Lehigh Valley communities, the Miracle That is Allentown is shrinking. Not by much, but it's an indication that all the public money poured into the downtown might be a mirage, after all.

According to Governing, Allentown's population dropped by 0.2% last year. That's just 187 people, but should be cause for concern. In the meantime, cities like Philadelphia grew 0.3%.

King, Spry Advised Not to Report School Sexual Abuse

Last week, I told you that the King, Spry law firm firm billed the Bangor Area School District $178,000 in 2013 and $202,000 in 2012 even though it was involved in no outside litigation. Don Spry even charged to fill out his Ethics Act statement. These annual payments seem excessive to me. More importantly,they seem excessive to some school directors. But the firm has come under criticism for something much more serious than money. The complaining party is not some disgruntled mom or dad, but the Dauphin County Grand Jury. 

According to a report released late January, the Grand Jury investigated why the Susquehanna School District took so long to notify police about a sexual relationship between a teacher, who was later charged, and a 16 year old female student. The bureaucrats looked at it from the perspective that someone was spreading false rumors instead of determining whether there really was abuse. As it turns out, there was, and it continued for months despite the administration's knowledge of these allegations. They refrained refrained from making a report to the police on the advice of their solicitor. The King Spry firm.

According to the Grand Jury, which filed no charges, "This advice unnecessarily delayed discovery of [the teacher's] criminal conduct ... and potentially endangered other students."

Amazingly, King Spry partner John Freund defended keeping police out of the loop, called the Grand Jury's findings "unfounded" and denied that students were at risk. They weren't just at risk. One of them was being abused.

The King,Spry firm, which loves to contribute to the politicians, was promptly fired.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A Tale of Two Directors of Administration

Ryan Kish
By a 6-3 vote, Northampton County Council recently rejected Executive John Brown's nominee for Director of Administration, Cathy Allen. Council complained that Allen's education (a high school diploma) and her relative inexperience (two months of County employment) made her unqualified to administer a $360 million budget with 2,200 employees. But she's still Deputy Director. Before he went on a week's vacation in May, Brown designated Allen as the person to contact in his absence.

Hanover Township's budget and workforce is decidedly smaller than Northampton County. But at their May 27 meeting, Supervisors approved a new "Director of Administration" position, to be filled by Tresurer Ryan Kish at a annual salary of $55,000.

Kish has a Master's degree in Public Administration and Policy Planning, and two years of experience working under Township Manager Jay Finnigan.

When Your Dad Is a Township Engineer

... you get to stand on top of the new firetruck. Christopher Milot, son of Hanover Township Engineer Vince "on target" Milot, inspect a newly acquired rescue truck acquired by the Hanover Township Volunteer Fire Company for a little over $600,000.

It still has that new firetruck smell.

Controversial Cop Out at Fountain Hill

A Fountain Hill police officer fired for roughing up a suspect and then lying about it, but who was later reinstated after binding arbitration, is finally gone for good. Grady Cunningham, Jr., a police officer with a "Fighting Solves Everything" tattoo emblazoned on his forearm, resigned from the force on May 23. But it will cost the Borough. In an agreement approved by a vote of 4-2 during a short but heated special meeting, Fountain Hill Borough Council will pay Cunningham $35,000 and provide a neutral recommendation to any prospective employer.

Cunningham, a Fountain Hill police officer since 2010, was fired in February 2013 after being deceptive about a police surveillance tape that showed him approach a handcuffed and shoeless Richard McLaughlin from behind, place him in a choke hold, spin him around and then throw him head first to a hard floor. He also appears to be taunting McLaughlin, though there is no audio.

At the time, McLaughlin was being processed for public drunkenness, harassment and disorderly conduct. He later entered a guilty plea to those charges and spent a few days in jail. But McLaughlin sued both Cunningham and Fountain Hill over the incident, alleging that the police brutality is a violation of his civil rights. Represented by South Whitehall Township Attorney Richard Orloski, McLaughlin recently settled his claim for $95,000, according to borough officials.

It was not the first time Cunningham roughed someone up.

Cunningham's checkered past

As a bouncer at Jelly Beans Southside Jam in Allentown, Cunningham was ordered to pay more than $1 million after severely beating a bar patron who was annoying others with talk of religion and his missionary work.

In Northampton County, magistrate dockets reveal that, in 1993, harassment and terroristic threats against Cunningham were sent on to County Court. Also in 1993, bad checks, forgery, receiving stolen property and unlawful use of computer charges were sent to court. What happened at the County level is unknown. There is no record. It could be that he was admitted into ARD, a special program for first offenders, after which the charges are dismissed and sometimes expunged.

He still owes Northampton County $354.50 in costs for an old (1991) disorderly conduct conviction. The matter was referred to a collection agency..

In Lehigh County, Cunningham was charged with terroristic threats, harassment, disorderly conduct in 2003. Charges were downgraded to two counts of harassment and he was placed on six months probation and fined $600. He was later brought back to court on contempt charges for ignoring his costs.

Cunningham also has a history of domestic violence. In Lehigh County, Protection From Abuse Act (PFA) contempt charges were filed against Cunningham in 2003. That same year, a PFA was sought and obtained against him in Northampton County. Those PFA charges were eventually dropped by his battered girlfriend after a custody order was entered, assuring that his visitation with his son would be supervised.

Arbitration and Reinstatement

Despite this checkered past and unprofessional behavior as a police officer, Arbitrator Steven Wolf concluded last August that Cunningham was entitled to "one final opportunity." He then gave Fountain Hill and the FOP the opportunity to pay his $12,600 bill for three days of testimony.

Though Cunningham was reinstated, he would never patrol again. Chief Ed Bachert kept him on desk duty. Then, because of "concerns" that needed investigation, Mayor Jose Rosado had Cunningham placed on paid administrative leave. Cunningham himself began making complaints against the Borough with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The impasse ended with the acceptance of Cunningham's resignation during a special meeting on May 23, along with a $35,000 payment and promise to provide neutral recommendations. Attempting to fire Cunningham again would have been financially irresponsible, according to Mayor Rosado. He explained that the process would take 6-8 months, and that the Borough would pay 2-3 times more in attorney fees than it agreed to pay Cunningham. "There's also no assurance that we would get the outcome that we did receive," he added.

The six Council members who voted (Carolee Gifford was delayed by a medical emergency at her hospital and missed the vote) all agreed that it was time to part ways with Cunningham. But it was still a fractious meeting, with Council President Larry Rapp and Helen Halleman trading barbs.  Rapp voted to approve the resignation settlement, and was joined by Norman E. Blatt, Fred Capuano, and Doug Trotter.

Halleman, joined by Philip Trable, voted to reject the deal. "No, no, no, absolutely not!" she voted. She was disgusted by any financial settlement. "Shame on the arbitrators and my colleagues for voting in favor of this, since [Cunningham] has been collecting full salary and health care benefits for several months."

"Listen up, you citizens of Fountain Hill," she said after the meeting. "These are taxpayer dollars. All gone to waste. When budget time comes, you will all be given a big shot with a tax increase because we are in a bigger than ever deficit. When you go to the polls, you know what you can do? Get on the ballot and help the Borough survive."

Rosado stated that the police force is now down to four full-time officers, plus the Chief.

Charlie Dent Hailed as Fiscal Hero

"Fix the Debt" is a non-partisan movement led by heavyweights like former Senator Alan Simpson, Erskine Bowles, former Governor Ed Rendell and former Mayor Michael Bloomberg. PoliticsPA is reporting that this group has honored Lehigh Valley Congressman Charlie Dent as a "Fiscal Hero" for using his position in the House, particularly on the Appropriations Committee, to reduce the national debt.

Dent is one of 31 other Congressmen so honored.

According to Dent, discretionary federal spending has gone down in each of the last four years.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Northampton County's Quiet War on the Church

Covenant United Methodist Church
By all outward appearances, Northampton County government is church-friendly. Before every meeting, all Council members and the Executive rise in prayer. A former and current member of Council are clergymen. Despite occasional grumbling from an atheist here and there, a plaque with the Ten Commandments defiantly adorns historic Courtroom One. But behind the scenes, little known to even elected officials, a quiet war has recently been declared against the Church. This is the story of that conflict.

It's an old story, really. Since the days of Henry II and St. Thomas Becket, government officials have always wanted more money than churches are willing to give. In Northampton County, the Revenue Appeals Board has assumed Henry II's crown. Starting ironically on St. Patrick's Day, 34 churches have been summoned to justify their tax exemptions. This is part of a process that this Board decided on itself, without a formal resolution or ordinance from County Council.

The Revenue Appeals Board

What is the Revenue Appeals Board? It's a five-person board, appointed by the Executive and confirmed by Council, who are paid to hear assessment appeals filed by property owners and taxing bodies. They can lower or raise a property assessment, and can declare a property exempt, taking it off the tax rolls.

It is supposed to be a quasi judicial body, but it has played favorites. Late last year, worried that multimillionaire developer Mark Mulligan might back out of purchasing the Wolf Building from the County, the Board entertained and granted a late appeal to reduce the assessment, in complete violation of county law. The person who strongly advocated for this illegal reduction, Richard McAteer, happens to be a member of the Revenue Appeals Board. He also chairs the Easton Redevelopment Authority. Wearing his Revenue Appeals Board hat, he voted by proxy to break a 2-2 tie in favor of a reduced development.

Charles Gordon, the Solicitor who represents this Board, was asked how he could allow a member of a quasi judicial body to vote on a matter in which he heard none of the evidence. "Nobody asked me," he answered.

No Reassessment since 1995 

Northampton County has a $8.834 billion assessed value tax base. This is where the property taxes imposed by all municipalities and school districts are derived. There's been no appreciable increase in recent years, thanks to the Great Recession, a stalled real estate market and an increase in assessment appeals in recent years.

These appeals stem from the inequities that result from a lack of reassessment. Politically unpopular and costly, there has been no county-wide reassessment since 1995. They are often perceived as tax hikes in disguise, especially to those who end up paying higher taxes. State law, however, requires that the process must be revenue neutral. Some property owners would also see their taxes go down.

Because there's no political will for reassessment, County officials began turning their eyes on nonprofits as a revenue source, much as Henry II looked on the church. And for good reason. Nine percent of the County tax base, or $770 million, is listed as exempt. That's 4,060 parcels.

The ArtsQuest Exemption

In 2012, when ArtsQuest sought an exemption for two South Side Bethlehem parcels, Council member Lamont McClure and Controller Steve Barron fought against it. McClure threatened to withhold hotel tax revenue already pledged to the Jeff Parks nonprofit, while Barron complained about "the funnel of cash going down there."

Council member Peg Ferraro disagreed, calling the ArtsQuest improvements a "blessing" and "asset to all of us." Echoing Ferraro, Council member Ken Kraft called ArtsQuest founder Jeff Parks a "visionary" under attack by "jealous people" in what seemed to him like a "witch hunt".

A Back Door Reassessment of Nonprofits? 

What was unknown at the time of the ArtsQuest debate is that the Revenue Appeals Board had already ordered assessors to review all 4,060 exempt parcels. By reviewing all parcels, the Board could avoid a claim of spot assessment, i.e. a property owner being singled out. It's unclear whether the county board has any independent authority to review an assessment without a request by the property owner or a taxing body. In a recent Warren County case, a county court ruled that a county revenue appeals board has no authority, on its own initiative, to change the exempt status of a nonprofit. But that's precisely what has happened in Northampton County. Reviews were completed early this year, and the Board started exemption hearings on St. Patrick's Day. Because the Board has targeted all nonprofits, numerous small churches scattered throughout the County are being put through the ringer.

War on the Church

In many cases, the Board has learned that parsonages and convents are listed as exempt properties, and the churches responsible have quickly agreed to start paying taxes. Even in the case of Roseto's Independent Presbyterian Church, where the Pastor lives in just 292 sq ft, taxes were imposed. But other decisions are even more questionable.

One of these small churches is Covenant United Methodist Church, located in Klecknersville. Built in the '60s, the Church was surrounded by acres of grassland. Some was converted into a baseball field, and a farmer approached the Church for permission to till the remaining land. The Church, which would otherwise have to spend money cutting the grass, agreed.  After a few years, the farmer asked the church if he could make a donation every year. If he plants soybean or corn, that donation could be $400. If it's grass, like this year, it's around $250.

At an April 22 hearing, the Revenue Appeals Board decided to tax this land. It determined that four acres are being farmed, though it conducted no survey. It valued the land at $29,600, or $7,400 per acre, even though it is landlocked and can only be accessed via remaining church property. This is much higher than the $4,191 per acre average paid by Northampton County for farmland preservation.

This translates to $910 in taxes, well above what the farmer is donating. Trustee Alfred Miles doubts that the land will continue to be farmed if this ruling stands.

Miles is also irked that the Board just divided four acres off the property when everything is contained on one Deed. "They did a subdivision we didn't request," he remarked. He's still scratching his head over how a church can be assessed taxes on a property from which it derives no profit and that encourages our threatened farmland.

Ironically, Northampton County has preserved over 13,000 acres of farmland with a half mill open space tax increase dedicated for that purpose.

One hand giveth, and the other taketh away.

Things could be worse. At the nearby Salem United Church of Christ, located in Moore Township, the Revenue Appeals Board imposed a $39,100 valuation on four acres being farmed. That's $9,775 per acre.

Has the Tax Basis Increased? 

In two months of hearings, the Revenue Appeals Board has added $1,469,700 in taxable assessments. Most of the increase is undisputed. This quiet war has increased the County's taxable assessments by 0.016%.

ArtsQuest is on deck.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Tighter Gun Control Measures Needed For Mentally Ill

Under Pennsylvania law, it is practically impossible to deny not just gun ownership, but a license to carry, unless that person has been committed. That leaves a lot of mentally ill people out there who have access to firearms. After the Isla Vista shootings this weekend, which left seven people dead and thirteen people wounded, it's time to start insisting that our state and federal legislators start listening to us instead of the NRA, even if that gun lobby does contribute heavily to their campaigns. In fact, it's time that the NRA start listening to us instead of the gun manufacturers who fill their coffers.

I need a prescription for antibiotics, but can buy all the ammo I want. Something's wrong there.

Guns may not kill people, but cRaZy people with guns do. Before anyone is permitted to own a gun, he should be forced to undergo a mental health evaluation. That should be updated every five years. If a person observes irrational behavior by a person who bears arms, he should be able to petition for seizure of that person's weapons until an evaluation is performed. If the complaining party is wrong, he should be required to pay for the evaluation.

I respect that you may feel safer with a gun. But the rest of us will feel safer if we we know you're not nutz.

Also, no one should be able to carry in any government building. Right now, our state law is impotent to prevent lunatics from barging into town halls with weapons. That needs to change.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Brace Proposes Same Sex Benefits in Lehigh

Comm'r Geoff Brace had proposed legislation that will change Lehigh County's policy to offer spousal benefits to employees in legal same-sex marriages.  The message sent to the Board also requests a special meeting on June 4, 2014 for the sole purpose of a second reading and final vote on this matter. Brace believes that a recent judicial decision justifies quick action. 

Here's a statement:

"I wish I did not need to introduce this legislation.  I am a firm believer in LGBT equality and the protection of LGBT rights.  I come to this position from my faith and upbringing and look forward to the day when this type of legislation is not necessary."

ASD's Armstrong Likens Guridy to Vulture

Never one to mince words, Allentown School Director Scott Armstrong was perturbed by a guest appearance from Allentown City Council President Julio Guridy. After all, Guridy has had so many good ideas in The Miracle That Is Allentown.

From ASD Director Scott Armstrong: Allentown city council president Julio Guridy chose the May 22nd Allentown School Board meeting to score political points by making the totally ridiculous pronouncement that the school district should find other remedies than staff reductions or tax increases to solve its current budget crisis. This, of course, drew applause from the assembled vested interests that filled the chamber. One might ask how cheap, insincere and self serving this act was.  In truth, it was no less self serving than the intransigence of the teachers’ union to engage a process to find an equitable solution to the state’s public pension crisis. On this night Julio Guridy was the vulture circling the financially distressed district seeking profit for himself.  So self serving, so Allentown. God help us.

The Elections Office Is Looking For a Few Good Poll Workers

... but they got stuck with me. They were desperate. If you don't want to see this travesty of justice repeated, call the elections office today (610-559-3055) and volunteer to be a poll worker yourself. If you don't, they might hire me again. It's a long day, but the pay ($170) is good.

I am not going to name names or even the polling district at which I worked. If you saw me there, please don't name it out of respect for the privacy of voters. But let me tell you a few things about my experience.

* You can actually get sore from sitting on your ass all day. I thought I was well-trained for sedentary activity, but am obviously out of condition. I have to train harder.

* Though I did next to nothing, I was still tired the next day.

* The poll workers are, for the most part, very experienced. Most have been doing it for 15 years or more.

* There's a lot of paperwork involved. Each voting machine runs off four tapes, and each must be signed by each poll worker. We must also sign the return. It is not something you can do cold.

* In addition to being very experienced, poll workers really try to be fair. There were no hidden agendas, no soliciting votes. The elections judge told me, "There are no Democrats or Republicans here."

* We did blow two votes. Two voters who signed in and used the machine walked away without ever having actually pushed the button to cast their ballot. We caught most of the people doing that, but two got by. That is the voter's fault, but it's also ours. The machine lights up when the vote is successfully cast. We missed it twice, which bothered us all.

* One poll worker was very incensed that campaign workers were outside, and wanted to shoo them away. She is a purist. After awhile, I began creating stories for her, telling her they were paying voters or putting signs right in front of the door, or sneaking inside. She'd fly outside until she finally caught on. "Now I know why everyone hates you," she told me.

* Most of them amazingly knew me as "that guy who writes."

* They all have interesting life stories. I can't tell them here without giving them away.

* Our constable was barely able to walk to the easy chair, upon which he lounged until lunch and dinner time.

* The elections judge let me sneak out at 2 pm to get some food. Don't tell on me. I stopped for a pint of rice, peanuts and a coke. As I ate, the poll worker I was tormenting asked, "You live alone, don't you?"

* The voters are mostly very old and very white. Those are the people making the decisions.

* One voter insisted on showing her ID. "If I need it to buy a pack of cigarettes, shouldn't I need it to vote?" she asked.

* Another voter, who is a clown by profession, told us jokes for a good while. Some were pretty good.

* One voter went to the wrong car after voting. When her key did not work, she called her husband to complain until the school custodian told her she was trying to get into his car.

* Two Independents were turned away.

High School Grad Will Lead NorCo Government Next Week

Northampton County Exec John Brown is taking next week off. Good on him. He has informed Council that if they have any questions, they should contact Cathy Allen. Up until February, this high school grad was a glorified secretary in a two-man insurance office. But she'll now be administering a $369 million budget and 2,200 employees. Aren't we lucky?

Bangor School District's Lawyer Bill Raises Eyebrows

The King Spry law firm, which includes over two dozen attorneys, is one you'll see on numerous campaign finance reports throughout the Lehigh Valley. They finance numerous local political races, with gobs of money. Where do they get all this money for Allentown Mayor Edwin Pawlowski?  From you, of course. Bangor School District residents should be delighted to know that their hard-earned tax money is helping fund the Miracle That Is Allentown. Last year, the King, Spry law firm was paid $178,000 in legal fees by Bangor Area taxpayers.The year before, it was $202,000 to a law firm that was engaged in no outside litigation.

I guess you can call this regionalism.

What kills me is that Don Spry actually charged the school district to fill out his own ethics form. Talk about cheeky.

I have been unable to find a norm for Solicitor's fees to a school district, but these bills seem excessive to me. Any of you know what your school district solicitor is paid? I have filed a Right-to-Know for more detail.

Superior Court Quashes Mezzacappa Appeal

For the third time in two weeks, Tricia Mezzacappa has bombed out in Court. This all started last Tuesday. The Superior Court, speaking through Judge William Platt, rejected her attempt to play Super DA, and force a criminal prosecution against one of her enemies. The Court spanked Mezzacappa for her "insulting" language and failure to cite any authority in support of her numerous wild arguments. Ironically, the decisions came the very day that Bill White inducted her into his Hall of Fame.

She was a loser in Northampton County Court last week, too. She had sued me for defamation and fraud. But that wasn't enough. She also wanted taxpayers to subsidize her private vendetta. During a hearing, Mezzacappa was forced to admit that her poverty petition was mostly fabricated. She tried waterworks, but Judge McFadden said she had to pay if she wanted to sue me. Now the rules makes very clear that, once a poverty petition is denied, the party has ten days to pay up. Naturally, Mezzacappa refused, and wanted a fifty gazillion year payment plan. The case was dismissed. She petitioned to reopen the case, but Judge F.P. Kimberly McFadden denied it last Thursday, without a hearing, in a one-sentence order.

Game over.

Her latest setback came yesterday, again from the Superior Court.  She appealed my $67,140 libel verdict against her, which is now worth $67,658.06. Why she appealed the matter before final judgment is anybody's guess. Maybe she thought it would slow things down. All it succeeded in doing is pissing off the wrong people. She never bothered to serve me or my attorney, but filed a fraudulent affidavit of service. Her appeal was quashed by per curiam order yesterday. My attorney filed no Brief or Motion. Other than writing a letter, I wasted no time. But she managed to waste the time of both Superior Court Judges as well as Judge Michael Koury, who was forced to write an Opinion in response to her dilatory appeal.

Game over. Again.

Her post verdict motions in my libel case, in which she raises goofy things like the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, is scheduled for Tuesday. Things don't look so good for her.

She has reacted to these adverse rulings by spamming this blog with repetitive comments. That went on most of last week. She also sued me again, filing a Complaint identical to the one that was dismissed. She has also lashed out with abusive blogs, in which she repeats some of the lies that resulted in the defamation verdict.

But the walls are beginning to close in on her. Once Judge Koury decides the post trial motions, we start execution.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Judge's Arrest Should Be a Wake Up Call to Karen Dolan

A former Philadelphia judge was arrested and charged today with both theft and conflict of interest for his use of a judicial secretary to manage his rental properties. This should serve as a wake-up call to Bethlehem City Council member Karen Dolan. Contrary to what she might think, the conflict of interest provision in the Ethics Act has served as the basis for criminal prosecutions.

Here's what we know:

* Dolan voted for last year's City Budget, which included $5,000 in free heating oil at her non-profit.
* Dolan voted for the 2013 City Budget, which included $6,000 in free heating oil at her non-profit.
* Since August of 2011, Dolan has wanted to be a paid Executive Director at her non-profit.
* Sometime in 2011, the City stopped charging for utilities at her nonprofit.
* Sometime in 2012, City officials wrote off $128,000 in debt owed to the City.
* Dolan was a paid Executive Director this year, and may have been paid a small sum last year.
* Dolan, as Parks Chair, proposed easing park alcohol rules, which would make it easier for her to conduct wedding receptions at her nonprofit.
* Dolan threatened to use her powers on Council to prevent a new lease, and that required utility payments, from being considered by Council.

Section 1103(a) of the Ethics Act states, "No public official or public employee shall engage in conduct that constitutes a conflict of interest." The Act defines "conflict of interest" as the "[u]se by a public official or public employee of the authority of his office or employment or any confidential information received through his holding public office or employment for the private pecuniary benefit of himself, a member of his immediate family or a business with which he or a member of his immediate family is associated."

It's pretty clear, just from what I know, that Dolan engaged in repeated conflicts of interest. I'll concede that she did great work in getting the Mill up and running, and that it does good work for children. But that is no justification for breaking the law.

She needs to resign from Council.

BASD Never Promised You a Rose Garden

As hinted by Mayor Bob Donchez last night, the BASD has dropped plans to use a portion of Bethlehem's Rose Garden as a temporary parking lot for teachers during a two-year construction of a new Nitchmann Middle School. The schooldistrict is doing so, according to a Morning Call news account, in response to the public outcry from neighbors.

It is unclear what plans, if any, will be made for teacher-parking during construction. Neighbors may not want to see a portion of the Rose Garden temporarily converted, but they might be bothered to see teachers parking on front to their houses every day.

One City resident, Chuck Nyul, told City Council the new school could be completely housed at The Martin Tower, located less than a mile away, without inconveniencing anyone. But he also told them to knock down the steel stacks.

City Council Has Sudden Change of Heart About Morganelli

Diana Morganelli (center) has female crowd on her side
Five weeks ago, Mayor Bob Donchez' appointment of Diana Morganelli to the Bethlehem Parking Authority was rejected by all three members of its Waterboarding Committee after 50 minutes on the rack. A magna cum laude accounting graduate of Moravian College, who had spent years at Air Products, was told that stay-at-home moms need not apply. But after weeks of public condemnation, the entire city Council reversed course at their meeting last night. They unanimously approved her. "There's a very common word for this practice," noted watchdog Stephen Antalics. "It starts with an H. It's called hypocrisy.

Five weeks ago, Cathy Reuscher told Morganelli she had been out of the "financial arena" for too long to be of much value. Adam Waldon referred to the Parking Authority as a "hornet's nest," and said it might be too much for her. Karen Dolan lectured that accounting principles have changed a lot in the past thirty years. What all three of them were saying is that stay-at-home moms need not apply. They did not use those precise words, but that's certainly what they meant.

They also were looking for a way to stick it to Mayor Donchez. His best friend happens to be DA John Morganelli, whose wife Diana is the nominee. What better way to send a message than by rejecting her appointment to an unpaid, voluntary position?

In the weeks that followed, public condemnation of this poor decision was swift and harsh. The common reaction is exemplified by Anne Evans, who told Council that the actions of this three-person junta were "demeaning and sexist, not just to [Diana], but to all the women of Bethlehem."

So after the drums began a-beatin', the Morganelli phone began a-ringin'.

Bryan Callahan told everyone he called her on Mother's Day weekend. He had her on the phone, I'm told, for fifty minutes. This is on top of the fifty minutes she had already been grilled. Then came a call from Adam Waldron. He called after learning that there were now four votes for Morganelli, and he was suddenly in the minority. He droned on for another forty minutes. Finally came a call from Cathy Reuscher. I have no idea whether Morganelli took my advice and pretended to be a tree. I do know that she spent over four hours, both in a committee and on the phone, answering their questions.

I'd rather go through root canal.

Before the unanimous vote in favor of Morganelli last night, Karen Dolan's passive aggressive behavior was on full display. In an appointment to another Board, Dolan made a point of noting she supported it even though the nominee had been a stay-at-home mom. She later complained that their decision had been "mischaracterized," and that the phrase "stay-at-home" mom had never been used. Then, beating back crocodile tears, Dolan told Morganelli, "I never wanted to do anything that would hurt you." Dolan called the whole thing an "incredible learning process for me."

If I were Morganelli, I'd buy a flak jacket. When Dolan turns on the water works, she's on the attack. It's clear to me that she feels she was right to reject Morganelli and that the decision was misrepresented because it wasn't reported the way she wanted it reported. She went so far as to suggest that, perhaps, they should have tabled the appointment.

Adam Waldron, who insulted not just Morganelli but the entire Parking Authority, discussed the numerous emails he received, one of which was from me. He promised to do a "better job", but I doubt it. He never responded to my email, indicating to me that he changed course simply because he realizes his poor judgment in this matter might cost him his seat.

Reuscher, who also ignored an email from me, said next to nothing, other than that Morganelli will be a "great asset to the City."  She did as she was told. Again.

The truth is that City Council would have happily rejected Morganelli if there had not been such a public outcry. The proof of this is Bryan Callahan, who whined at the end of the meeting.

"It's not a healthy thing," he complained to the Mayor, repeating that phrase nine times in the course of a rambling speech. He complained that just because they rejected Morganelli, there were accusations of "over reaching" and "power grabbing." He also pointed out that Donchez himself turned down a Mayoral appointment.

Mayor Donchez agreed, pointing out that he did vote against a nomination once in 18 years on Council. He added that he has reached out repeatedly to members of Council, having breakfast with three of them in the last week alone. "I don't know what more I could do," he added.

He defied Callahan to come up with one instance in which he accused them of "over-reaching" or "power-grabbing." "I think you're totally inaccurate," he added.

Neither Callahan nor Dolan really understand that you simply don't have the right to abuse a volunteer for an appointed, unpaid post. Whether she's the DA's wife or not. That's not over-reaching, it's just disrespectful. For a Council that prides itself on its faux civility, the way it handled this matter was pure politics. But they chose to dance with the wrong person.

District Attorney John Morganelli did not attend the meeting. He was getting ready for today's Investigating Grand Jury.

Dent Condemns VA's Secret Waiting Lists

Congressman Charlie Dent is among those who co-sponsored and voted (390-33) for House legislation that will make it easier to fire or demote a VA official guilty of mismanagement. This comes in the wake of claims that dozens of veterans have died while waiting for treatment,

“All Americans were appalled and angered by the recent reports about veterans losing their lives while being placed on secret ‘wait lists’ for care at VA facilities. The fact that these were not isolated incidences but instead seem to be common protocol is despicable,” said Dent.

“This bill gives Secretary Shinseki the authority to make sure that the people reporting to him know that they will face harsh consequences for failing our veterans. We’re giving him the ability to muck out those individuals who allowed this perversion to become policy,” said Dent. “He better use it.”

Obama has taken swift action - a speech.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Angle Installed Atop Bill White's Mount Rushmore

Morning Call columnist Bill White was at tonight's meeting of Bethlehem City Council. Normally, he's a fairly reserved guy who keeps to himself. But he sought me out after the meeting to tell me that his Mount Rushmore of Hall of Famers is complete, and that graphic artist Ann Elizabeth Schlegel worked up a terrific design. He was quite excited about it.

The only living member of White's Mount Rushmore is Ron Angle. Most of us would shudder, but I am sure he will be pleased. He gets a kick out of this sort of thing. He still thinks he did me a great favor by nominating me last year.


Now I'm stuck in it for eternity with Tricia MezzacRaZy. Thanks, Ron. Thanks a lot.

I have not seen the graphic for this Rushmore, and hope it is in tomorrow's print edition. I wonder if it includes a big Angle cigar.

Other inductees include Allentown's Emma Tropiano as well as the Cipko Brothers.

NorCo Republicans Reject Extremists in Their Midst

The rats within the Northampton County COP (they use that weird themselves) have been defeated in their latest attempt to wrest control of the party from more moderate voices. They mounted a slate of state committee candidates to take out more mainstream Republicans.  These mainstreamers, as I call them, are actually hard core conservatives, for the most part. But they were not pure enough for the slate assembled by Bethlehem City Council loser Tony Simao.

Ron Angle was assailed in a web page and vicious mailers. Peg Ferraro was attached in a robo call and mailer.

The people have made their decision.

The three successful male state committee candidates are Bob Kilbanks, Glenn Geissinger and Ron Angle.

The three successful women are Lee Snover, Peg Ferraro and Mary Barket.

Guess What I Did?

I love to pitch about elections officials and poll workers, but on Tuesday, I was one of them. Between 6:30 am and nearly 9 pm, I worked at a Palmer Township poll. It gave me new found respect for what these people do, year after year. I'll have a more detailed story tomorrow. For now, I want to crash.

I am delighted to see that Tom Wolf has the gubernatorial nod among Democrats and that Mike Stack is their choice for Lt. Governor. I am disappointed that Scott Parsons lost, but was afraid that would happen in a three-way.

One Vote Joe Sinks Parsons State Senate Quest

Scavello nearly impossible to beat
Joe "Won by One" Capozzollo ended Scott Parsons's race for the state senate on Tuesday. In fact, he has all but assured Republican Mario Scavello of a victory this Fall.  That's because One Vote Joe insisted on running in a race that he had to know he would lose. But he siphoned off just enough votes from blue collar Scott Parsons to guarantee a primary victory to Allentown Attorney Mark Aurand. Republican Mario Scavello would have had a rough time against Parsons, a fairly conservative, common-sense Democrat. He'll have a field day with Organizing for America Mark Aurand, who will be defined as a left wing lunatic.

According to the latest from WFMZ, Aurand was pulling away at 11 pm with 41% to Parsons' 36% and One Vote Joe's anemic 23%

Some say that Aurand supporters encouraged Capozzolo to run, flattering him and appealing to his ego. By any logical analysis, he had no business running. Just two years ago, he was crushed by an arrogant and cocky state rep. He raised no money. Did he honestly think he'd do better against a Republican moderate who is actually admired? So did he run this race, knowing he'd lose and that he was playing the spoiler, because someone promised him something?

One Vote Joe has demonstrated a lack of integrity. In 2003, he pleaded "no contest" to vandalizing a school board candidate's signs. He's never won any race outside Bangor, and his one vote margin there is laughable.

Had One Vote Joe stayed out of this race, Parsons would be the victor tonight. Scott would have had a fighting chance against Scavello. I admire Aurand's honesty and intelligence, bit he will have a much harder time against Scavello. In fact, I think the race is already over.

Why? He's been running for two years. He has lots of money to spend. His positions are fairly moderate on most issues. He's not some whack job that can be defined as an extremist. He has run successfully for may years in a district that was 63% Democratic. Most importantly, he works his ass off, taking nothing for granted.

On Saturday, this Monroe County resident found the time to attend Hanover Township's Armed Forces Day Program. At 10 am, it was his third stop that morning, I later learned.

Updated 10:30 am: In Northampton County, Parsons won the race. He attracted 2205 votes, which put him ahead of Aurand (1927) and Capozzolo (1210). He lost in Monroe. Aurand finished there with 2185 to Parson's 1443 and Capozzolo's 1054. Capozzolo tapped into Parsons' base.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Join The Wolf Pack

Northampton County DA John Morganelli is forced to deal with lots of low-lifes on a daily basis. I'm not talking about criminals, but bottom-feeding bloggers like me. He can hide in his office, but eventually, he has to leave. That's when I nail him.

He's about to have one friend who looks like he's headed to high places.

Tom Wolf will almost certainly be the Democratic nominee for Governor tomorrow. The Lehigh Valley politician has been encouraging him to run since 2012?  Northampton County DA John Morganelli. In fact, he was the ONLY Lehigh Valley politician to jump on the Wolf Bandwagon early, when he was at 0%.

Over the protests of many, Morganelli convinced Bethlehem Mayor Bob Donchez to join him in endorsing Wolf. Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski, who wanted to be Governor himself, eventually went with Rob McCord, along with most of LV Labor. Easton Mayor Sal Panto is dancing with McCord and turned down an invite to join Morganelli and Donchez to endorse Wolf.

Morganelli also raised $10,000 for Wold during an April fundraiser at his home.

Tonight, Morganelli and Donchez have been invited to Wolf's HQs in York, where he will await the election tally.

Freemansburg Ave Widening To Start September

CPL Stephen Malitzki, Jr, and family
The best-laid schemes of mice and men gang aft agley, says poet Robert Burns. He must have been familiar with PennDOT. A two-year widening project along Freemansburg Avenue is scheduled to start in September. Bethlehem Township Commissioners approved a host of motions and resolutions related to the project at their May 19 meeting. The good news is that St. Luke's Hospital and Madison Farms developers will be picking up the tab, which includes a new bridge over Route 33. The bad news is that it is scheduled to take over two years.

This comes at a time when residents Roy and Barry Roth are complaining about congestion along William Penn Highway, the other east-west corridor in the Township. They both noted that, in addition to rush hours, they have even seen it on Saturday mornings. He asked Township officials to meet with PennDOT about re-timing the traffic light coming from Emrick Boulevard.

Commissioners also heard again from Chetwin Terrace resident Wayne Kresge, who has been a regular at meetings for the past year. He has been plagued by stormwaters that come from William Penn Highway, across the bike path and flood onto his property. He told Commissioners that there was 4" of rainwater on the bike path after a recent downpour. "If some child is out there, he'll be swept away," he warned.

Township manager Melissa Shafer told Kresge that Public Works will be out there within a month, and promised to visit the property herself after the next heavy rainfall.

Shafer also updated Commissioners on improvements at Housenick Park. She noted that work on a driveway and parking lot is under way and that she is working on securing a permanent easement. She also toured the Archibald Johnston Mansion, and reported there is no leakage. She said the chimneys need work, especially since a tree is growing in one of them.

Commissioner Michael Hudak, who previously asked Kunsman Roofing to examine the roof, also clarified that the roof repair projection was not a technical "estimate," and that if the roof were being repaired, the matter would be put out to bid.

Kunsman Roofing has been making bi-annual inspections and repairs at the mansion.

Finally, Officer Officer Stephen Malitzki, Jr., was sworn in as a Corporal in the Township Police Department by President Marty Zawarski. Corporal Malitizi was joined by his wife, Jennifer, and sons Tyler and Jaden.

NorCo Gaming Board Sets Criteria For Municipal Grants

Northampton County's nine-member Gaming Authority could award up to $1.6 million in slots revenue this year. Last month, the Board awarded approximately $940,000 in restricted "impact" grants. These are limited to Bethlehem and the five municipalities surrounding Bethlehem, where the Sands Casino is located. At their May 16 meeting, the Authority established criteria by which other municipalities may apply for "uncommitted" funds.

First, the application process will be open to every municipality, even those entitled to impact grants. Authority member Tony Pristash, who also serves on Northampton Borough Council, proposed excluding the impact communities from uncommitted funds, but Solicitor Graham Simmons cautioned against excluding any municipality. "You're going down a road where you could expose yourself," he cautioned.

Second, all applicants can apply for up to $50,000. Suggestions that the sum be smaller, or that there be matching grants, were deferred. Authority member Gerald Yob, who is also Freemansburg's Mayor, pointed out that many small municipalities like his would simply lack the funds for matching grants. "If it wouldn't be for gaming, we'd have nothing," he pointed out.

Third, there is a one application per municipality limit.

Finally, the grants can be used for infrastructure, human services, public safety or emergency management.

Now that the criteria are established, Executive Director Karen Collis will host two informational sessions on June 9, at 2 pm and 6 pm, for interested municipalities. Grant applications must be in by August 6, 2014, and will be awarded at an Authority meeting on September 22, 2014.

Northampton County's Gaming Board only has authority over slots revenue. Northampton County has also budgeted $1 million in anticipated revenue from table games this year. The County is also sitting on $1.375 million in unspent table games revenue identified in the approved 2014 Budget as "future grants". This is a total of $2.375 million, with no grant process in place to ensure proper distribution.

Stay-at-Home Mom Has At Least Five Votes

Diana Morganelli, the stay-at-home mom whose nomination to the Parking Authority was panned by all three members of the Human Relations committee, appears to have five votes. This includes Adam Waldron, chair of the very committee that rejected her. By the time Wednesday night rolls around, it could be unanimous.

Other Council members who have committed to vote for Morganelli are Council President J. Willie Reynolds, Eric Evans, Bryan Callahan and Mike Recchiuti.

There is no question that Morganelli is qualified for this unpaid, volunteer position. She knows how to park a car.

This became a mess for two reasons. First, two of the three members of the committee that interviewed Morganelli,Adam Waldron and Cathy Reuscher, are new to Council. Second, they made the mistake of listening to Karen Dolan. Though she is the most senior member of Council, she is also the most erratic.

The only two members of council opposed to stay-at-home moms, are the two women on Council.

Morganelli can undoubtedly snag Cathy Ruescher's vote by pretending to be a tree. Dolan, who should know how to count votes despite her inability to file nonprofit tax returns and pay City debt, can pretend she supported Morganelli all along.

Five of seven votes is 71.4%. That's better than you, John!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Dems: Be Careful What You Wish For

Michael Beyer has been tossed by the state Supremes as a Democratic candidate in Justin Simmons District. They think he has a little problem telling the truth. That was apparent to me simply because he switched parties the day before you started circulating his nomination petition. A long time Republican just suddenly became a Democrat. The reason, quite obviously, is because he could never win as a Republican. 

Beyer is the son of former state rep Karen Beyer. She's been telling her old Republican and lobbyist friends in Harrisburg that Michael will switch back to Republican if he wins in November since the 131st is now a Republican leaning district.  They think they only have a shot this year to win this district because of Corbett.  Also she will be his Chief of Staff so she can direct him.

So Bar Johnston, is this what you really want?

My Election Day Picks: The Kiss of Death

Just because I've blown a few election predictions, I've developed this reputation for cursing politicians to the political graveyard by simply saying I like them. Obviously, that's just nonsense. So let me tell you now who is going to win in the upcoming primary races.

Governor - I'm guessing Allyson Schwartz. I'm sure no one will mind that she not only supports abortion, but actually ran a clinic.

Lt. Gov. - Harrisburg City Councilman Brad Koplinski. Because why should Harrisburg be the only place that goes broke?

State Senator - Sign-bashing Joe "Won by One" Capozzolo, who slaughtered his competition for Bangor Mayor by one vote. Two years ago, he was crushed by Joe Emrick, a member of the Asshole Party. For some reason, he thinks he'll do better against a Republican who actually is a nice guy and has a $400,000 warchest.

State Rep. - Joe Emrick, proud member of the Asshole party, is running unopposed. So I'm picking him.

Congress: - Matt Cartwright has no Democratic opponent. On the R side, I'm goin' with Matt Dietz. Any friend of Tony Simao is a pal of mine.

(Here's a little secret. Don't tell anyone. I already voted because I'm working the polls on Tuesday. I went with Tom Wolf, Mike Stack and Scott Parsons, but I don't want to jinx them. I like Mark Aurand, but Scavello will crush him in the General. I think Scott could win, if Joe Cap hasn't taken away too many votes).

Silly Republicans

They're in firm control in Northampton County, so they're doing something right. But I still have to laugh at the County's GOP. They're fighting like cats and dogs over state committee seats, with mailers that contain no disclosures. There are even campaign signs. In the meantime, several elected offices have no Republican challenging the Democratic incumbent.

Who is behind this? The same sore losers who've done pretty poorly among fellow Republicans, to say nothing of Democrats. Unsuccessful Bethlehem City Council candidate Tony Simao. Failed Easton School District candidate Ronnie Del Bacco. Tom Carroll, who lost both a City Council race and Judge contest.

It's all Ron Angle's fault.

It's all Peg Ferraro's fault.

So now they have a slate running for state committee. They are the pure Republicans. That's OK, but the Simao crew has also formed a webpage that is extremely critical of Angle and mainstream Republicans. They claim it is paid for by some PAC that does not exist. They've also sent out two mailers attacking Angle and others. In violation of state campaign finance laws, they refuse to name who paid for these ads.

Maybe Judge (some day, he hopes) Carroll told them it's OK.

Here's their problem. Their webpage, which is supposed to trash Angle, has one of the best pictures of him I've ever seen. He's also identified with a group of fairly classy people instead of Mr. Hankey the Christmas poo, or me.

In an attempt to trash him, they made him look good.

Their mailers are hateful and desperate. Speaking of hateful and desperate, Tricia Mezzacappa is part of this crew, too. She will likely be elected to the County Committee on Tuesday, although I believe it is illegal to certify her because she owes at least $1,000 in unpaid fines for late campaign finance reports.

Anyhoo, in response to the webpage and vicious mailers, there's been an anti-Simao mailer, too. No attribution on this one, either. "Say No to the Tony Simao slate," it warns.

I asked Angle to fess up. he wouldn't answer his phone, so I drove to his estate, where he was skeet shooting some of his disobedient cows.

"Pull!" he barked at a servant, and a cow went flying through the air.

Angle missed. "Look, asshole, I don't really give a shit whether I'm elected," he snarled. "Why don't you ask John Brown?" he said, and then started laughing.

I could see Democrats sending these unsigned mailers to the Republicans, but we're just  too damn stupid.

I'm thinking Mr. Hankey.

Camel's Hump Farm Has Open House

Archibald Johnston, Bethlehem's first Mayor and one-time President of Bethlehem Steel, retired in 1927 to what he called "Camel's Hump". It's a large tract along the Monocacy Creek between Santee Road in Bethlehem and Route 22. Part of that land, which includes a three-story mansion and 55 acres, has been preserved as Housenick Park. But there is much more. Fundraising efforts are under way to preserve lands next to the park, 44 acres once owned by Johnston, for a nature school, environmental center and community farm. If the open house on May 17 is any indication, there is a great deal of public support for the proposal.

There is no shortage of public interest in preserving this farm. 
The proof of that is the packed parking lot at the the First Baptist Church on Linden Street. That was the rendezvous place for farm visitors, who were picked up and returned by trolley. On a winding return trip, visitors even passed the site of the first-ever lynching in Pennsylvania, near Monocacy Creek. 

In February, the Friends of Johnston, kicked off a $2 million campaign  to complete the purchase of what the Sierra Club's Bob Adams has called "a breath of life that will come to Bethlehem." Northampton County has already contributed $657,000, and a matching grant is expected from the state.

At the farm, there was music, farm animals and food, along with an opportunity to walk the grounds.

One of those visitors was Gene Smith, a former Easton High School coach and phys ed teacher who spent 17 years on Bethlehem Township's Recreation Board. "It's nice, but it could be combined with Housenick Park," he suggested. "Make it the way it was."

A calf, sitting close to Smith, declined comment.

For more information about this historic are, visit http://www.friendsofjohnston.org/.

Hanover Tp's Armed Forces Day Draws Over 100

Armed Services Park
Fewer and fewer municipalities celebrate Armed Forces Day, which honors those serving in all military branches. Hanover Township has been reversing that trend, and with growing crowds. It celebrated its third Annual Armed Forces Day Program on May 17 at Armed Services Park before a crowd of over 100 people.

Brig. Gen. Stephen Ressler (US Army Ret.) 
In addition to all Hanover Supervisors, the ceremony was attended by State Representatives Marcia Hahn and Mario Scavello.  The Nitschmann Middle School Marching Band, which provided musical entertainment, played the national Anthem despite having only one day to practice. The Honor Guard was made up of members of American Legion Post 379, located in Bethlehem.

Brig. Gen. Stephen J. Ressler (US Army Ret.), who was the Keynote Speaker, spent 34 years in the Army Corps of Engineers before moving to Bethlehem. "I wish I had known that before we designed this park, " wisecracked Township Manager Jay Finnigan.

General Kessler spoke of the wild variations in the way the public perceives the military. Treated with open hostility in the '70s, they became heroes after 9/11. Today, he described the treatment as "benign neglect," and lamented that "my beloved Army" is currently being reduced to its lowest levels since WWII.

He noted this attitude is universal, and quoted Rudyard Kipling's "Tommy," dedicated to the British soldier.
"For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' 'Chuck him out, the brute!'
But it's 'Saviour of 'is country' when the guns begin to shoot."
At a time when some VA administrators are under investigation for hiding waiting lists, General Kessler said we have a "moral obligation" to support the men and women who served. "Hire a vet," he suggested. "Look him in the eye, shake his hand and thank him for his service."

Americam Legion Post 379 provided Honor Guard
The Nitschmann Middle School Marching Band provided musical entertainment. 
WWII Vet LeRohn "Dan" Dreysher has now played "taps" nearly 2,900 times.
In his third stop by 10 AM on the Saturday before election day, State Rep. Mario Scavello attended this Hanover  Tp tradition. 

State Rep. Marcia Hahn attended as well, and has been to all three of these commemorations. 

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Becahi Girls' B-Ball Coach: Failure is Part of Success

Megan Dellegrotti
When she was in the 7th Grade, Megan Dellegrotti experienced her first big disappointment when she was passed over for a basketball team on which all her friends were playing. Crushed, she was ready to pack it in. But her father gave her a dose of reality. Unlike her friends, she had been playing for only a year.  "When you're not practicing, someone out there is," he told her. It's a message she took to heart and one that led her to become Berwick High School's all-time leading scorer. It led to where she is today, head girls basketball coach at Becahi. She shared her story at Notre Dame of Bethlehem's 45th Annual CYO Banquet on May 16.

Dellegrotti told the grade school student athletes that she's no natural, either in sports or academics. But though she's only 5'4", she played Division I basketball at the University of Delaware. Team captain for two years, she was selected to the NCAA East Regional Team. But she's most proud of her academic achievements. "My commitment to academics made everything possible," she said, explaining that she learned to prioritize her time. Those days started with 6:30 am workouts to compete with athletes who were faster and taller.

Those days ended with the books. "Being smart is sexy," she insisted.

Before coming to Becahi, Dellegrotti coached at Southern Lehigh for five seasons, leading them to three Colonial League Championships and a 104-28 record.

But instead of claiming that winning is everything, or the only thing, she told sto make udents the most important lesson is learning to fail. "Failure is part of success," she teaches.

Dellegrotti's speech, not the typical fare expected from a coach, was greeted with a standing ovation.

Notre Dame's CYO then went on to make its annual awards. The biggest honor, the 2014 CYO Christian Spirit Award, went to 8th Grader Grant Hershman, a three-sport athlete who has maintained high honors. When it was announced, his grandfather Lou brushed a tear from his eye. He tried to hide it, but is very proud of his grandson, and rightfully so.

Lou Hersham with his grandson, Christian Spirit Award winner Grant Hershman
Lou's other grandson, Cole, was awarded MVP an the Biddy Boys Basketball Team. He is going to be a terror on the court.
Lou Hershman with grandson Cole
Lou calls his grandsons General Grant and Colonel Cole.

On the varsity boys basketball team, there were two winners.

Though he's only in seventh grade, Caden Giordano (pictured right), won every tip-off and was deadly under the boards. He took MIP. Single-handedly, he turned a playoff game around. My grandson, Dat Lambert (pictured left), was awarded MVP. He is a very deceptive point guard whose quick moves on the court has actually caused opposing players run into each other. He's also a thief, good for stealing the ball several times a game.

The person who taught him how to steal? A judge, of course. Judge Emil Giordano, who led another CYO basketball team to an undefeated season, coached Dat when he first started playing basketball, and encouraged these felonies.

Caden has a year to go, but Grant and Dat are on their way to Becahi next year. Grant will be playing baseball and hoops. Dat will play football and basketball.

Many of you more regular readers have watched Dat grow up on this blog. Thanks for putting up with my bragging. The person who has been behind him every step of the way is his mother, Tuyet.

Dat has also been supported by numerous other selfless coaches, from Rodney Robinson to Craig Golden to Chuck Rockmore and Duane Schmoyer.

Friday, May 16, 2014

ET Reporter Wants to Suppress Bethlehem Whistle Blowers?

Lynn Olanoff is a reporter who covers Bethlehem for The Express Times. She's apparently had enough of my bottom-feeding. She has yet to tell her readers that Bethlehem City Council member Karen Dolan failed to file her nonprofit tax returns for three years in a row. She doesn't think you need to know that Dolan's nonprofit status at Illick's Mill was revoked for at least a year. She'd rather not discuss the $128,000 bill that Dolan ran up with the City, or her conflicts of interest in using her public office to get preferential treatment at a nonprofit where she was the paid Executive Director. She's downplayed that Investigating Grand Jury. She'll decide what you need to know. She's the gatekeeper, damn it! Time to put me in my place.

My report about Dolan's removal from the Parks Committee seems to have been the final straw. I got that out there before the dailies. This is not a knock on them. I have no editor and 5,000 editors. You are my editors. It's a blessing and a curse.

Earlier this week, Olanoff chilled rank-and-file City workers from whispering into the ears of bottom-feeders like me. No deep throats in Bethlehem. She did this by filing a Right-to-Know request with the City, demanding copies of all emails sent by City workers to me. She also wants to know what they're telling District Attorney John Morganelli. As I understand it, the Right-to-Know was sent to somewhere between 50-150 City workers.

Interestingly, this Right-to-Know also comes at a time when Karen Dolan is trying to find out who is leaking all that negative information about her to me.

Now I know I'm just a bottom-feeder, but what possible reason could a real reporter have in discouraging City employees from talking to news sources, even if it's not her?  She actually wants to scare people away from revealing information instead of encouraging it. She is also interfering with another reporter, although I suppose that I don't count.

I called and emailed her. I did not get the courtesy of an answer. It must be beneath her. I did get a reply from her editor, who told me he still loves me and that I am way off base.

Really? What possible reason could Olanoff have for this request other than to find out who is leaking information about Dolan? What possible impact can it have other than to scare City workers, who have enough problems?

How would she feel if I filed a Right-to-Know request, seeking emails sent by City workers to her and Karen Dolan?

Incidentally, what this reporter and Dolan will discover with this Right-to-Know is that I get lots of emails. They're called news releases, along with notices of zoning and planning meetings.

A real smoking gun there.

But I want to thank her. She has unwittingly identified me as the go-to guy for information about government corruption. My email address is BOHare5948@aol.com. Send all dirt my way. Just don't email me from a government account.

Accounting Manager Promoted Despite Nepotism Claim

Lamont McClure
Is it a blessing or a curse to be the child of a highly-placed elected official? That relationship might make it easier to secure a position or a raise. But the person involved could be exposed to all kinds of scrutiny that would never occur if no relationship existed. Mary Allice Einfalt, Northampton County's Accounting Manager, could probably weigh in on this topic. By a 5-2 vote of County Council at their May 15 meeting, she was reclassified as part of a fiscal overhaul to give her additional oversight over many operations. She was also awarded a major salary hike, from $66,504 to $87,307. To some, this promotion and reorganization were long overdue. To others, it was nepotism. Einfalt is the daughter of Council president Peg Ferraro.

Einfalt's reclassification is part of a plan to require accountants to report to accountants, instead of program directors. This problem, along with a lack of tighter fiscal control at Gracedale, has been identified by external auditors as a "material weakness" in internal controls for the past two years. It has also cost the County money. With the exception of Controller Steve Barron, nobody has voiced any serious objection to this reorganization, which also reduces the responsibilities of an accountant at Gracedale and creates a new fiscal administrator for human services. Barron's objection was that the County was putting the "cart in front of the horse." He pointed to outdated fiscal policies and procedures, which go back to 1988, and suggested they be revised first.

Scott Parsons was the swing vote
Nobody challenged Einfalt's qualifications. A CPA, she's been employed by the County since 2010. In that time, she's assumed responsibility for numerous financial statements, initiated paperless pay, eliminated OT in Payroll by 97%, and has taken some Human Resources tracking from there to Payroll. She has identified and eliminated internal control weaknesses missed by the outside auditor and Controller. One glaring example of this is eliminating a practice in which the accounts payable department was permitted to create new vendors. She is a cross-training advocate and also a disciple of Continuous Improvement (CI), which ironically was championed by John Brown's opponent, John Callahan.

But some Council members, particularly Lamont McClure,  had concerns that have also been voiced by County workers.

McClure was put off by the size of the salary hike, a point he mentioned repeatedly at a Council and Personnel Committee hearing

"When was the last time this County gave anyone a 30% pay hike?" he asked Executive John Brown, who was unable to cite an example.

"Unprecedented", "historic" and "massive" are words he used to describe the pay increase.

McClure and Ken Kraft also raised questions whether career service regulations were being followed. When a new position is created, career service regulations require the job to be posted so that others within the County can apply. But Executive Brown told them this was no new position. Einfalt was and remains the Accounting Manager. As a result of a desk audit, her position has been re-classified to add additional responsibilities and give her a larger salary.

Then McClure raised the nepotism issue. It had been raised the previous day by Council member Hayden Phillips, but after speaking to Einfalt, he became "enthused." "I have to tell you, I'm a big fan," he had said at a Committee meeting.

McClure, to put it mildly, was unenthused.

"No one else in this County is getting this kind of raise. Our employees are still shell-shocked over the Easton commuter taxes. ... I'm very concerned that, in order to get this kind of consideration, you need to be politically connected, and I'm just very concerned about that. It's unfortunate."

"That's very uncalled for," retorted Peg Ferraro. .

"What's uncalled for? What I think is uncalled for is that people who are interested in the issue - you, Madame President, making phone calls to our fellow Council colleagues regarding this issue, in advance of the issue, when you should have, in my view, not been involved in any conduct whatever advancing this issue."

After the meeting, Ferraro acknowledged that she did call Council members, as Council President, to advise them that this matter would be considered. She denied lobbying for her daughter, took no real part in the discussion at Council and in Committee and recused herself from the vote.

McClure, who accused Ferraro of nepotism, bristled during last year's budget debates when a Council member suggested that he was unable to vote for raises to professional employees like his wife, who is employed as an Assistant District Attorney. He pointed out, correctly, that she is part of a class receiving the raise and there was no conflict.

After the nepotism accusation, the vote was quickly taken. Ken Kraft and McClure opposed the promotion, Ferraro recused herself, and the five remaining Council members, including Democrat Scott Parsons, supported the reclassification. Bob Werner was absent as a result of a death in the family.

The other proposals, which reduced the responsibility of Gracedale's Fiscal Administrator and created a new position for fiscal management of human services, passed 8-0.