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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Friday, May 29, 2015

Morning Call Features My Grandson's AAU Basketball Team

My grandson Dat Lambert and head-banded Mikey Esquilin, are the
two players in white who were selected all-tournament in Ohio.
Time to brag a little. Sorry. After basketball season finished last year, my grandson immediately started playing AAU basketball. After school, he hits the books, and then starts shooting until it's time for practice. His team, the McHoops Blue Chips, was just featured in The Morning Call. It's a collection of 8th and 9th graders from Becahi, Central Catholic, Parkland, Emmaus, Easton and Whitehall. They are coached by Dawud Abdur-Rahkman, an assistant coach at Muhlenberg College. The team has outright won two tournaments and came in second at a recent tournament in Ohio. It was just invited to play in this weekend's Parkland's Trojan Classic AAU tournament.

Dat with Jared Sullinger
So far, I've missed all but the first tournament. I've been assigned dog-sitting duties. But on Saturday, I'll get a chance to watch them play.

In case you're wonder how a freshman guard stacks up against an NBA player, wonder no more.

In Ohio, Celtics power forward Jared Sullinger, 6'9", came to watch the kids play, and posed with my grandson Dat during a break. Now Dat is nearly six feet tall, but compared to Sullinger, he looks like a peanut.

I think I could take them both, but don't want to embarrass them at such young ages.

The Great Jail Raid: Much Ado About Nothing

Let's say you're a bad guy, someone who smuggles contraband into Northampton County Jail, either as a corrections officer or as a visitor. The last day you'd do this would be on a Wednesday, when jail staffing is at its highest, and everyone is crawling over each other. Yet that's precisely the day that NorCo Corrections Director Dan Keen chose for a surprise shakedown. Over the course of six and a half hours, 79 state corrections officers and 14 K-9 dogs searched every inch of the place. And found nothing. A dog and pony show that afternoon created the false impression that drugs had been found in two cells and a locker, but District Attorney John Morganelli confirmed on Thursday that the massive search had yielded nothing worthy of his attention.

All they found were lots of autographed pictures of me!

Basically, state taxpayers wasted about $40,000 in wages and salaries for a wild goose chase. I'm sure state investigators will come right away the next time Keen cries "Wolf!"

Just so you know, there's no doubt in my mind that there really is a contraband ring inside the jail, as there is in nearly every jail. But instead of letting professionals look into the matter, Executive John Brown listened to Cathy Allen, a Deputy Director of Administration with absolutely no experience or education in corrections or criminal investigation. She conducted her own investigation, developed her own stoolies, persuaded Brown to hire Keen and then arranged with Keen for this sweep, which was doomed to failure from the start.

Keen had assured everyone there would be tons of drugs and cellphones .But he picked the worst day possible in a sign of naivete and inexperience that have become Brown trademarks.

Morganelli, who actually has gone through a few of these, could have told them they are wasting their time and our tax dollars. "It's hard to get into a locked down facility," he explained, noting that word always gets out.

On Thursday, when it became clear that no drugs or criminal contraband had been found, Keen stopped taking questions from The Express Times.

There's a rumor that about eight corrections officers were escorted out of the jail last week, but nothing has been referred to Morganelli for prosecution.

Updated 12:13 am: Morganelli told The Morning Call's Riley Yates that this search was "like the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq." Keen has apologized for any "miscommunication" when he asserted that drugs had been found in two cells as well as someone's locker. Jail inmates were apparently strip-searched.

RIP, Willard Mohn

Former Upper Nazareth Tp Supervisor Willard Mohn passed away on Wednesday. He's a former Nazareth police officer who went on to become police chief in Stockertown and Upper Nazareth. He advocated 24-hour police protection and was also a proponent of the Nazareth Library when less enlightened souls were trying to close it down.

"It is a sad day for the Officers of the Nazareth Borough Police Association," stated their President, Fred Lahovski. "Officer Mohn embodied all the things that are righteous about the police service. He has influenced generations of Nazareth Police Officers in encouraging the golden rule, 'Treat other as you wish to be treated.'"

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Lustig Hot Dogs Coming to Bethlehem

John Lustig, Jr.
Remember Lustig hot dogs? They were the wieners used at Potts, Willie Joe's, Pete's, Richards and other revered hot dog stands. You could buy them at Laneco foodliner, too. They were the staple of John Lustig's Meats, which operated out of Quakertown between 1966 and 2000. Now John Lustig, Jr. has an innovative way for selling hot dogs in Bethlehem. Instead of off the grill or out of a frier, his dogs will be encased on site, cooked in a smokehouse for two hours, and go directly from there onto your bun. At their May 27, 2015 meeting, Bethlehem's Zoning Hearing Board unanimously approved his application for a special exception to operate a hot dog business at 835 N. New Street. Their only complaint was that he failed to provide a few samples of his fare.

His eatery will be open six days a week, between 11 AM and 6 PM. It will be strictly take out, and customers standing in line can watch as their hot dogs, made of beef, pork and seasonings, are encased and smoked. It will be strictly take out. He will also sell chips, milk and bottled soda. Because his dogs are bigger than the normal fare, he will charge $2.50.

Lustig explained that 99% of hot dogs are actually cooked twice, first at the meat processor and again at the eatery that serves it up. His wieners will be fresh.

As a former employee of the US Department Agriculture, Lustig became what he calls a "clean freak." So much so that the employee handling cash will be kept away from the workers making the dogs.

The smokehouse will be vented outside. "There will be a smell, not a strong smell," he admitted.Neighbor Frank Baran complained that he is "not really fond of the smell of smoked meat," and also worried about the litter. Jerry Bozio, who owns the property next to Lustig, complained about the increased traffic this would cause. Lustig, who is under no obligation to provide off street sparking, suggested he would be willing to convert a portion of the lawn into a parking lot.

While zoners deliberated, Lustig reached out and spoke to Baran and Bozio about their concerns.

After granting him approval, Chair Gus Loupos placed an order.

A Ron Angle Controller Race Would Help Elect Sam Murray

Although the official tally is not expected until later this week, WFMZ-TV69 has gone out on a limb and reported that Ron Angle has attracted enough write-in votes to get on the Republican ballot in the Controller's race against Steve Barron. I'll go out a little farther and report that Angle has over 550 write-ins, well in excess of the 250 votes required. A few votes went to RAT candidate Anthony Catino, who wanted to twerk his way into office. There was even a write-in vote for the "Mediterranean Manslab" in Bethlehem's eighth ward. But Angle, who spent no money and did no campaigning, really kicked ass. Nobody will be more grateful than Sam Murray, if Ron really runs. And that is a Big If.  

If the judicial race between Democrat Sam Murray and Republican Vic Scomillio were held today, Sam would lose. He would go down even though there are more Democrats than Republicans.The reason for this is that Republicans vote in municipal races while Democrats watch John Stewart. This is why John Brown, who was widely unknown, was able to beat John Callahan in 2013.

Republicans are pretty smart in these races. Look at Bethlehem and Easton. You'll see there are no Republicans on the ballot. Even in the County Council races, Republicans offered no challenger in Bethlehem or Easton. As a result, Democrats stay home in the urban centers. They think they have no real reason to vote. And the Republicans crush everywhere else, especially in county races. So despite having the Brown anchor around his neck, I believe Scomillio is currently the odds on favorite for judge and that Sam is going to have to do everything he can to bring out the vote if he expects to win.

In the old days when there were real party bosses like Justin Jirolanio, Democrats were a real machine on election day. They spent immense amounts of money to drive voters to the polls and make sure as many Democrats as possible voted (and some would add as many times as possible).

Over the years, as unions and party structures have weakened, that real get out the vote effort has been replaced by political consultants who send mailers to the wrong addresses or conduct bogus polls. Candidates with no money get stuck with zealots like Gloria McVeigh, who scare normal Democrats away.

Republicans need no one to drive them to the polls. They will come in on walkers and wheelchairs. You have to respect them for their willingness to be engaged. I wish more Democrats were like that, but they only get fired up in presidential races.

If Ron runs for Controller, things change. Sam's chances of getting elected as Northampton County next judge improve considerably. Ron will bring out the Democrats. In fact, he'll probably bring out more Republicans than might otherwise vote. He is a master at drawing attention to himself, and has already done it in this race. The Express Times was unwilling to do a profile on the judicial race before the primary becauseit  might interfere with their prom coverage. But the paper published a story about Angle's write-in campaign, even though he was not even a candidate. He sells papers.

Now WFMZ is reporting on the barbs being exchanged between Steve Barron and Ron, in what sounds more like the trash talk before a professional wrestling bout than anything else.

Good stuff.

As most of you know, I think Barron is a much better Controller now than he was before John Brown took office. He has matured, and Brown has also managed to make him look pretty good. But as most of you also know, I consider Ron Angle one of my closest friends. In my mind, no one would be a better fiscal watchdog than the man I dubbed the Northampton County Bulldog.

But is Ron really serious?

I think he was running solely to prevent Barron from waging his own write-in campaign, or even worse, seeing the nomination going to a wingnut  like Catino. I doubt he really wants the job. He is simply too busy to be tied down to an office every day. If Ron Angle turns down the nomination, party bosses can select someone else to take his place. That's what I expect to see happen.

But not right away.

He's having too much fun.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Planner, Developer Lash Out at Green Pond Marsh Advocate

Jack Glagola, Democratic nominee for Township Comm'r
Plans for a 265-home active senior development, located next to Green Pond Marsh, will have to wait another month. That's because Bethlehem Township's seven-member Planning Commission had no quorum to review the latest submission from Traditions of America. Three members were unable to attend, and Chair Lee Snover has recused herself from voting on the matter as a result of a potential conflict.

Though no formal action could be taken, developer Traditions of America signaled it has no issues with recommendations made by the Township engineer. Moreover, Del Val Soil and Environmental Consultants, hired independently by the Township, has raised no environmental concerns. Snover warned that Traditions' real problems will be with regulatory agencies like PennDOT, DEP and the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission.

Les Walker
Jack Glagola, informed yesterday that he is the Democratic nominee in the at-large Commissioner race, pointed to developers and noted, "None of them live here" He pointed out that Traditions stands to gross about $111 million, while Bethlehem Township residents will get more congestion and stormwaters."They don't get smart development," he complained. "This is dumb development."

Glagola had waged a write-in campaign for the Democratic nomination to the at-large seat on the Township's Board of Commissioners. He received 92 write-ins, to 88 for incumbent Marty Zawarski, the Republican nominee.

Glagola was reminded by Snover several times to confine his comments to the merits of the plan. But no such admonition was given to others who decided to attack him. Traditions Principal John Biddison complained that Glagola's own home is closer to Green Pond Marsh than any of the homes he plans to build. Calling Glagola a NIMBY, Planning Commissioner Les Walker told Glagola, "This Board isn't here to save your view." He called the "Save Green Pond" signs he said he sees everywhere "ridiculous."

Glagola did address the merits of the plan, noting that Save Green Pond had done its own environmental study. Planning Director Nathan Jones assured Glagola that his study had been distributed.

While Biddison and Walker took their shots at Glagola, Commissioner Michael Hudak applauded from the back of the room, and spoke loudly enough to be heard in the front. Marty Zawarski, who was also listening, walked out after Hudak began whatever he was doing

In a first, Green Pond Country Club owner John Daub weighed in. "We feel very comfortable that Traditions of America is the best plan for the Township," he assured planners. "The majority of the people in the Township support it," he added.

"We are not touching Green Pond," Biddison insisted. "The wetlands are 100% protected."

After the meeting was over, Zawarski stated he is troubled by what he has seen. To him, this is not a done deal.

Northampton County Receives 2015 Conservation Leadership Award

Maria Bentzoni and Bryan Cope
NorCo Council President thought that news that Northampton County recently received the 2015 Conservation Leadership Award would make a great op-ed piece. I agree, but I'm not so sure she'd like this one.

When John Brown was first elected Executive, he met with an environmental group. "I'm not a parks guy," he told them. He proved that, too, by proposing a budget that essentially gutted the County's open space program.Council restored it by taking money from the table games revenue that Brown has been hording.

He's been no friend to conservation, but Northampton County was awarded the Conservation Leadership award anyway. Maria Bentzoni and Bryan Cope, the architects of the County's Open Space Program, were excited to show off the plaque st lat week's Council meeting.

Though these two are probably far more knowledgeable than anyone about the County's open space accomplishments, and could talk about it with enthusiasm and passion. But in a sign of what is wrong with the Brown administration, they were forced to stand and cool their heels while Director of Administration Luis Campos attempted to take credit for their work.

With none of the fire that Bentzoni emits, Campos droned on about the County's remarkable open space achievements, almost making them sound like a bed-time story. He incredibly talked about changes in liocal zoning that made them possible. I'd like to know where he got that idea. But he was accurate about most of what has been achieved.

The County has invested nearly $6 million for 56 municipal park projects; $4.2 million to preserve 1,500 acres of environmentally sensitive land; has preserved nearly 14,000 acres of farmland and has created 23 miles of open, multi-use trail systems.

When Bentzoni and Cope were finally permitted to speak, they credited not just the cutrent Council and Administration, but those that came before them.

We have made great strides and hope to keep going further with your support," stated Bentzoni. .

Let's see how much Brown sets aside for open space this year.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Green Pond Marsh Plans at Planning Commission Tonight

Bethlehem Township's Planning Commission is tonight expected to hear yet another Traditions of America presentation in support of a senior residential development next to Green Pond Marsh. Traditions' principal David Biddison and Green Pond Marsh advocate John Glagola will offer their respective viewpoints.

Glagola waged a write-in campaign for the Democratic nomination to the at-large Commissioner seat currently occupied by Marty Zawarski, and should know this evening whether he has enough votes.Zawarski fended off two challengers and is the Republican nominee.

Judge Joseph Leeson: The Quiet Man

Over three decades ago, a group of recent law school grads traveled to Philly every day, in a broken-down car, to study for the bar exam. That crew included noted child advocate Phil Hof, District Attorney John Morganelli, Superior Court Judge Jack Panella, and now, United States District Judge for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania Joseph "Jay" Leeson. Before a standing-room only crowd at Northampton County's historic Courtroom No. 1, Leeson took the oath on a bible held by his wife Loretta. After being sworn in by Presiding Judge Legrome D. Davis, Leeson put on his black robe for the first time, assisted in the task by his children Maureen, Kathleen, Joseph, Patricia and Robert.

Nominated to the bench by President Barack Obama, Leeson was overwhelmingly confirmed by the United States Senate in December 2014. He was the second Lehigh Valley resident to be so honored last year. Judge Edward Smith was also elevated to the District Court. Judge Smith's chambers are in Easton, while Judge Leeson will preside at the federal courthouse in Allentown.

During a time when partisanship blocking of judicial nominations has become routine, Senators Pat Toomey and Bob Casey have somehow come up with a way to ensure that nominations in Pennsylvania have been successful. In the Eastern District, 21 of 22 authorized judgeships have been filled.

Unlike most federal judges, who have first served as state judges, Judge Leeson practiced law. He represented the Diocese of Allentown, which was obvious by the number of priests in attendance at his investiture. He also served Bethlehem, both as its Solicitor and as a City Council member.

Though comfortable discussing fine points of law in a courtroom, Leeson could also be seen on hot summer nights, sitting on a blanket in the grassy area behind center field at Irons Pigs' home games.

One of Leeson's closest friends, John Morganelli, believes the judge's whole approach, both personally and professionally, is akin to the admonition Franklin Delano Roosevelt once gave about public speaking - "Be sincere, be brief and be seated." Morganelli was asked by a reporter to recall some "colorful" or "fun facts" about Leeson.

"There aren't any," he replied.

His favorite book?

"The Bible?" Morgenlli guessed.

Lehigh County President Judge Carol McGinley agreed with other speakers who praised Leeson's legal acumen and integrity, but added he has the "inscrutable" face, like his father before him, that will make him a perfect judge. "I extol his face," she joked.

Judge McGinley also offered a brief prayer for Leeson. "Lord, give me courage to follow the Constitution and not my heart," she began, but then added pleas that had everyone laughing, like asking that the Congress see the wisdom in keeping family disputes out of federal court. "Please give him cases that are interesting, but not so interesting that they end up on the Drudge Report," she concluded.

Calling Leeson a man of "quiet and excellence," Judge Davis told Leeson, "You distinguish this bench by your presence."

Overwhelmed, Judge Leeson had a difficult time responding to the tributes paid to him. With his voice breaking up, the quiet man responded that he is "filled with gratitude for all that life has offered me and given to me.He concluded that he is honored to participate in "the greatest judicial system in the best country the world will ever see."

Nazareth Police Ass'n Awards $500 Scholarship to Nazareth High School Senior

Earlier this year, Nazareth Borough Council condemned the police association for their annual fundraising letter because it told recipients they could verify the group's legitimacy by contacting the police department.That's actually pretty sound advice. I wish nonprofits and charities would follow this example. What does the police union do with the money raised? Throw a kegger? File another grievance? No, what they do is help the community. It's why most of them became police officers. They've just proved it with a $500 scholarship to a graduating Nazareth Area High School Senior.

This Nazareth Borough Police Association is actually a pretty small group. Its membership is limited to full-time officers Alan Koch (veteran), Fred Lahovski (veteran, lifesaver), Stephen Schleig (Eagle Scout) and Adam Shimer (lifetime resident, Iraq war vet). It is part of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP).

Nazareth Borough also has a large contingent of part-time officers. They are ineligible for participation in the FOP, and that's just fine with Borough Council because our wise leaders can pay these guys $22 or so per hour to put their lives on the line with no benefits, no pension and no union protection. Some of these are fine officers anyway. Some are not.

Friction has existed between the borough's so-called leaders and its full-time officers for years. Whatever the current bone of contention, whether it's a TV at the station or a fundraising letter, the real problem is that Council detests the union. To make matters worse, civilians with no police training think it's their job to participate in law enforcement. While oversight is a good thing, Council members have actually tried to use police to tip them off about undercover state police operatives at the social clubs. Incredibly, Nazareth's Mayor was until recently the president of a social club with a long history of illegal gambling. Under the Borough Code, he is actually in charge of the police department. That's the last place where someone like him belongs.

While the town fathers made sure they were preening peacocks at the lead of the Memorial Day Parade, Nazareth's full-time police officers are on those streets in the middle of the night, when a burglar alarm is going off.  

Without any fanfare or accolades, these full-timers have been participating in random acts of kindness over the past year. A woman whose car was totaled in a car accident got a replacement, thanks to their efforts. A single mother having trouble making ends meet got a cash donation. And now a young lady who wants to attend West Chester University has received $500 towards her tuition.
Nicole M. Boylan is the winner of the Nazareth Borough Police Association's 2015 Scholarship Award. The award is based upon a competitive essay submission from applicants who attend Nazareth Area High School, or residents who attend a private or charter school. The topic of the 2015 essay was, “The three most essential qualities of an American Citizen.”

Boylan, 17 years old, resides in Upper Nazareth Township with her parents, Michael and Chris Boylan. She has just completed her senior year at Nazareth Area High School and achieved a class rank of 13 out of 396. While at Nazareth HS, Ms. Boylan participated in Student Government, Senior Executive Council, Mock Trial, Model United Nations, Girl’s Cross County, Girl’s Track & Field, and Winter Track. She also served as a Blue Eagle Ambassador, Middle School Cross Country Volunteer and Miller Keystone Blood Drive Volunteer. She was named as a Student of the Quarter, Scholar Athlete and to the National Honor Society.

At West Chester University, she plans to major Business Management.

This scholarship is possible through the Nazareth Borough Police Association and the Nazareth Area Community who contributed to that fundraiser.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Nazareth Under Martial Law?

GI Joe
Has the military finally decided to find out who put those "Fire Trachta" stickers on a mailbox? Nah. Despite the ominous look, the uniformed soldiers marching down Main Street were part of Nazareth's annual Memorial Day Parade.

It is a day to honor fallen heroes, but Nazareth Borough Council was at the head of the parade, right behind the American Legion.Nobody clapped for them.

Old war engines rattled down the street, while even older veterans walked along. Scout Troops also participated, along ith the Nazareth Area High School marching band.

Firetrucks made up the rear of this convoy. I thought I saw a few poker machines in the Vigilance Hose trucks, but was distracted because my dog was pissing on some old lady.

She thought it was rain, and I agreed.

Cub Scouts Pack 88
LV Pink Heals was there as well, raising awareness of women's health. The event ended with speeches outside of Borough Hall.

Below is a slideshow of pics from the parade. If you see your children in one of them, and would like a copy, email me at BOHare5948@aol.com.

Just a Common Soldier

You can read the poem here.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Bethlehem City Council Races - The West Side Difference (Updated 4:54 pm)

The latest web updates on the Bethlehem City Council races make clear that the west Bethlehem vote was a huge factor. That vote is what put Michael Colon over the top. Jeff Kocsis did very well there, too.

4 Year

J Willie Reynolds 1918 (NC) plus 777 (LC) = 2695.
Shawn Martell 1619 (NC) plus 634 (LC) = 2253
Michael Colon 1309 (NC) plus 807 (LC) = 2116
Michael D Recchiuti 1480 (NC) plus 618 (LC) = 2098

2 year

Olga Negron 1214 (NC) plus 343 (LC) = 1557
Matt McKernan 805 (NC) plus 268 (LC) = 1073
Jeff Kocsis 663 (NC) plus 529 (LC) = 1192

Executive Ordered to Justify Raises Or Face Legal Action

Battle lines are being drawn. Executive John Brown and Northampton County Council appear to be headed to court over raises that Brown has unilaterally given to what he claims are 14 top county officials. Thus was done without the approval of County Council, the branch of government that sets most wages and salaries under the County's home rule form of government. Under the terms of a resolution that was adopted unanimously at Council's May 21 meeting, Brown must justify these raises or face legal action and a possible surcharge. For his part, Brown condemned Council for its "constant interference" and "political pandering."

This issue first surfaced in early April, when Controller Steve Barron discovered that Brown had given his Deputy Director of Administration, Cathy Allen, a 19% pay hike over the course of his first year in office. Brown and Allen worked together when he was Bangor's Mayor. He had proposed her as his Director of Administration, but Council rejected her.  Under county law, a raise of that magnitude requires approval of County Council to prevent the executive from playing favorites. Brown countered this raise is permissible under the arcane provision of a policy and procedure written by the Executive.

As time went on, it became apparent that raises were being unilaterally handed out to other employees as well. Two weeks ago, it unanimously signaled its intention to nullify an undetermined number of raises that Executive John Brown has handed out to top officials during his first two years in office. The precise number was unknown because Brown refused to provide it.

After that meeting, Brown huddled with county lawyers and Council VP Glenn Geissinger. Though each side insisted it is right, Council Solicitor Phil Lauer reported to Council that Brown did have a reasonable basis for his position and was acting in good faith. Brown released a list of 14 County workers who received raises from him alone. He agreed to resurrect the dormant Personnel Commission so it could review some of these policies and procedures.

When Council convened again on May 21, they voted to go into executive session, i.e. behind closed doors, to discuss the matter. Ken Kraft, Lamont McClure and BobWerner were outvoted when they argued there was reason to meet in secret.

When they came out after nearly an hour, they voted unanimously to direct Brown to provide justification for these increases by June 18. If he fails, Phil Lauer has been directed to sue to have all raises nullified. If he does have to sue, layer has also been directed to seek a surcharge for the $100,000 in public funds expended on these raises.

A surcharge is a rare sanction imposed against public officials who abuse funds.

For his part, Brown was incensed by a remark that Lamont McClure had earlier made to The Morning Call, suggesting that the Executive's actions might be considered criminal. He called that "completely ridiculous," characterizing it as "nothing more than political nonsense that he spews regularly." He admitted that he and Lauer disagree, but neither Lauer nor his own Solicitor is a judge. "We need to drop the 'This is illegal' nonsense,"  he argued, complaining bitterly about "political pandering, name-calling, innuendo and under the breath remarks" at every council meeting. He noted Council is quibbling over $100,000. in an administration that saved $8.5 million in salary and benefits last year without laying people off.

He justified the raises as necessary, noting that most of them went to workers at Gracedale whose departments have "improved dramatically." He claimed that his raises led to a recent clean bill of health given to Gracedale by the state.

"Where was council when health care costs grew at a rate of $1.5 million per year?" he asked. "Where was the heated debate over the shrinking general fund?" he asked, noting that the general fund has shrunk from Council let shrink from $70 million to less than $10 million.

He blasted Council for being "focused on the pennies" instead of the bigger picture. He insisted that, contrary to the image painted by Council, the County is "well run, efficient and highly functional" and that he has a "strategic plan" in place.

Lamont McClure, who was participating in the meeting by phone was unable to respond to Brown because his connection was lost and no one seemed to know how to restore it in a county that brown had just called  "well run, efficient and highly functional. " But Scott Parsons, who had turned beet red as Brown spoke, refuted the executive:

"If you want us to work with you, and I'm willing to work with anybody who wants to move this County forward, you have to be transparent to us and let us help you."

Brown then stated  transparency means different things to different people.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

UPDATED: NorCo Exec Lists 17 Awarded Raises Without Council

Executive John Brown has provided Northampton County Council with a list of 17 employees who have received raised from him without their approval. They were granted under a personnel policy deemed unlawful by Council Solicitor Phil Lauer. Altogether, about 54 people have received suspect wages.

Though Brown has provided some information, he apparently is only willing to discuss it in Executive Session.

One of these employees, a purported friend of Assistant Director of Administration Cathy Allen, was hired as a temp and then given a $4,243 raise with no justification. Was this raise as a result of what she knows or who she knows?

This is one of the questions that council will try to answer tonight.

Updated 11 am: Council Solicitor Phil Lauer Reports on Meeting With Administration

Council Members/Linda:

Council President Ferraro has requested that I address this email to you, to summarize what occurred during a meeting among the Executive, his Solicitor, Council-member Geissinger and myself on Thursday, May 14, 2015. The meeting was accomplished at the direction of Council, to address issues relating to the propriety of pay increases unilaterally accomplished by the Executive, as well as the possibility of an amicable resolution of the current increases, and a plan for addressing similar issues in the future.

There remains a difference of opinion between Council and the Executive regarding the Executive's ability to adjust pay levels for higher ranking members of his administration. His position is that, given his obligation to effectively deal with a large number of personnel, the responsibilities and duties of whom change over time, some flexibility is required. Further, to the extent that his personnel costs remain within the overall budgeted amounts, there would appear to be no adverse effect on the budget, or the overall operation of the county government. This is particularly true to the extent that any of the affected personnel are in the exempt status, since the career service regulations do not specifically cover such individuals. The executive further explained that there were reasonable and valid reasons for each of the increases, and he provided us with certain examples. Finally, with regard to the Deputy Director of Administration position, which has received some considerable attention, he is of the opinion that this is an exempt position. In that regard, he provided us with a list of exempt positions prepared by HR, and that list includes the Deputy Director of Administration.

I explained, as I have explained previously to Council, that the Home Rule Charter gives Council the power to establish salaries and wages of all elected officials, officers and employees, and provides for a "pay plan for all positions". With regard to career service personnel, the charter provides a merit personnel system which applies to all career service employees, and explicitly defines how and when increases are to occur. The Career Service Regulations provide for a pay schedule with designated pay grades and steps, and provides for revisions of the pay scale which are to be submitted to Council. The regulations provide that increases in pay are to occur in accordance with the pay plan. Perhaps most important, nowhere is there a provision granting to the Executive the authority to make case-by-case departures from the otherwise applicable regulations. Further, with regard to the office of Deputy Director of Administration, the job description for this position, most recently revised in January 2012, specifically provides that the position is a career service position.

While the respective positions of the Executive and Council are clear, there is, as has been stated by virtually everyone who has examined the issue, some degree of uncertainty as to precisely where responsibility lies for pay adjustments in individual cases. A recent decision by a Northampton County Judge regarding the authority of the District Attorney to make similar adjustments facially appears to support the Executive's position. A careful reading of that opinion does not, in my view, support that position, but the similarities, together with HR's view that at least one of the positions was exempt, have created some confusion.

Our discussion went on for some time. At the conclusion of that meeting there was at least some agreement. Specifically:

1. To the extent that it is relevant, it appears that all parties were actually acting in good faith. The Executive was making adjustments to the compensation for positions whose responsibilities had changed, and he believed, based on the foregoing and the advice of his Solicitor, that he had the right to do so. Accordingly, no contact was made with Council regarding those adjustments. Council's objections to the adjustments are legitimate, and based on a sincere desire to comply with, and enforce, the applicable provisions of the Charter, Code and other relevant law.

2. The Executive agreed to provide to Council a listing of all pay increases and step advancements among county employees for 2014 and 2015, and apologized for the delay in providing that information, which is apparently not a simple process. We were assured that it would be forthcoming promptly. In fact, the County Solicitor provided me with the relevant documentation yesterday, and I have attached a copy of his letter to me, as well as listings of all pay increases and step advancements for 2014 and 2015. It was agreed that Council would be requested to keep at least the identity of the individuals listed on these documents confidential.

3. With regard to any pay increases or step advancements accomplished to date, there were discussions regarding whether, and in what way, remedial action should be taken. To the extent that the Charter or Regulations were violated, there is justification for some such action. There is concern, however, about the legality and fairness of now revoking pay advances, in some cases in effect for almost a year, on which the recipient and family have undoubtedly now come to rely. Given what was at least a misunderstanding of the effect of the applicable regulations, the personal effects which would result from a suspension of the increases, and the real possibility of litigation in response to any such suspensions, the consensus was that no action, in the form of either a suspension of the increase or claim for reimbursement of same, should be taken.

4. Finally, in an effort to generate a clearer understanding of these issues, and prevent a recurrence of any inappropriate future actions with regard to compensation, all agreed that the recently dormant Personnel Commission should be evaluated, reconstituted, and encouraged to take a close look at a number of matters. With regard to its membership, there was some discussion of ensuring that one representative of both the Executive and Counsel should be members of the Commission. Further, the issues which were the subject of the stipulated disposition of the litigation between the Executive and Council in October, 2009, would be submitted to the Personnel Commission. Finally, the Commission, with input from Council and the Executive where relevant, would examine more closely the pay plan to determine whether changes are appropriate.

To the extent that there are questions or concerns regarding the recent meeting, I will be happy to address them, and will respond, as quickly as possible, to any communications by Council.

Phil Lauer

Updated 1:30 pm: 2014/15 Payhikes Authorized by Executive Withour Council Approval:

17 Magistrate Workers Shortchanged on Raise

Northampton County Council recently approved modest pay increases for NorCo clerical staff. These raises were proposed by Deputy Director of Administration Cathy Allen, who claimed they had been planned since last year. Though this was the Administration's idea, and approved unanimously by Council on April 16, a Bethlehem attorney and former Assistant County Solicitor is reporting that the raises approved are being denied to 17 workers who serve on the front line of our justice system, in the Magisterial District Judge offices.

Attorney Chris Spadoni is reporting that, despite their inclusion in the pay proposal, at least 17 of these technicians have been informed that the approved pay raise will not be honored. This pay raise was supposed to go into effect on April 27. Spadoni has sent several letters to the County's Human Resources Department, and just notified Council Solicitor Phil Lauer about what is going on as well.

So let me get this straight. Brown has awarded raises to at least 17 top county officials. He has done so under some arcane policy manual and without the blessing of County Council. But he is denying raises to 17 other employees that were approved by Council and that he claimed to be his own idea.

Makes sense to me.

DA Morganelli on the Cone of Silence

Mat Benol and Scott Parsons Like the Cone of Silence idea
Northampton County DA John Morganelli appeared before Northampton County Council yesterday to seek approval for one-step increases in the salaries of three of his employees. The amount is only about $5,000, and Morganelli has the money in his budget. Though the District Attorney is an independent and Constitutional office, Morganelli decided to seek Council's assent for wage increases to nonexempt employees. This is something Brown failed to do for a three-step increase granted to Cathy Allen, his Deputy Director of Administration.

Earlier that day, the Administration had stated that the identity of employees who benefited from Brown's generosity last year are confidential and should be kept from the prying public eye. Morganelli got word of that stance, and said, "I'll just refer to them as Madame X. Or we can go into the Cone of Silence like Maxwell Smart "

After the laughing subsided, Morganelli stated that "all public salaries" are a matter of public information. He added that when he sued Executive John Stoffa over raises he wanted to give to Assistant DAs, their salaries were "all over the newspapers." He stated the names of the employees affected are included in his request. You may release them. They're public as far as I'm concerned."

Morganelli's request was approved by Council's Personnel Committee.

Bob Werner complimented Morganelli for respecting Council enough to ask for their approval.

Officer Claims Troxell Threatened Physical Retaliation

I've been fairly uncomplimentary about part-time Nazareth Police officer Dan Troxell. Aside from his botched Stickergate prosecution, I always felt he was responsible for the unnecessary and tragic death of Timothy Nixon, described below. But I was unaware until yesterday that Troxell has been accused of intimidation. His reaction to reports that were surfacing about him in 2013 smack of witness tampering.

In a signed statement dated 11/23/13, Officer Stephen Schleig details troubling statements made by Troxell. "[W]hen I find out [who is leaking reports], ... I am going to sue that person, get that person fired, try and file criminal charges against that for theft, and go after the person physically, hurt them bad. I mean I'm going to physically hurt that person, and do the same to their entire family."

When Schleig took offense at the way Troxell was speaking, Troxell asked, "What are you, a boy scout?"

Schleig is actually an Eagle scout.

Troxell's statements were allegedly made about six months before I began writing about him, and appear to be directed at another Nazareth police officer.

Nazareth Cop Faces Civil Rights Lawsuit Over Suicide

Timothy Nixon was a troubled soul. He had a lengthy history of mental illness, and was well known to residents and police officers. Two years ago, he ended it all with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. He left two children without a father. What makes this story all the more tragic is that it never should have occurred. Nixon was more or less goaded into killing himself by Nazareth Police Officer Danny Troxell. Nixon is dead because Troxell just had to be a cowboy. When I made Nazareth Borough Council aware of what had happened, I was ignored. It will be harder to avoid the civil rights lawsuit filed on Tuesday.

According to a complaint filed in federal court by Attorneys Phil Lauer and Joe Welsh, Nixon was an African American. Troxell and Trachta have been accused of using derogatory terms to refer to minorities in radio chatter as UNBs (unauthorized n----- in borough) or UNITs (unauthorized n------ in town).

In May of 2013, Timothy Nixon, age 32, broke into a friend's home and stole his handgun. Then Nixon called his friend admitted his crime, and said he was going to kill himself and his baby's mother as well. He also called his girlfriend and said he would kill himself.

Nixon's friend and girlfriend both reported the matter to Nazareth police. Troxell, who was assigned the matter, got an arrest warrant for Nixon, who was sitting in an apartment alone. .

Nobody with supervisory authority over Troxell was on duty. Troxell decided to arrest Nixon. He called Upper Nazareth and Stockertown, which sent four officers for assistance.

So far, so good.

That changed when more seasoned officers arrived at the scene, and noticed that Nixon was on the second floor of an apartment building.

"I don't like this," said an Upper Nazareth officer. "This is dangerous. Somebody is gonna' get hurt."

The officers suggested that a perimeter be set up for reasons of public safety. They encouraged Trachta to contact the state police, which has a swat team and negotiators. They suggested that Troxell just call Nixon, noting it would be far safer to spend a few hours talking to this guy than getting in a shootout and risking the lives of innocent bystanders.He also ignored their suggestion that the girlfriend be asked to call him.

Instead of heeding reasonable advice from veteran officers, Troxell called them "fucking pussies" and eventually kicked open the door to the apartment building.

Nixon saw Troxell coming and shot himself. It was a senseless death, made more so by the actions of a hot dog who couldn't even be bothered to try to talk to this guy.

The next day, Chief Trachta attempted to cover for Troxell's ineptitude. "[W]e needed to move on this," he told The Express Times. "The police went to execute an arrest warrant, found the person deceased," Trachta misled the press.No attempt was made to discipline Troxell. Quite the contrary. Chief Trachta has tried repeatedly to have Troxell named as a full-time officer.

He allowed an inexperienced officer to help a mentally disturbed man kill himself. And the person did not kill himself until Troxell kicked in a door.

I am told that police reports prepared by Upper Nazareth officers, and the one prepared by Troxell, are inconsistent.

The Complaint details a pattern of civil rights abuses and cover-ups.:
  • a private investigation into the police department was highly critical of its management, but Borough Council has refused to accept this report. It has refused to make its contents public and has even denied it exists.
  • Troxell participated in the use of excessive force, which included tasing a man who was handcuffed and inside a police cruiser.
  • Troxell was the arresting officer in the botched Stickergate prosecution, in which all charges were dismissed after a staged perp walk. 
  • Nazareth amazingly fired a school crossing guard whose only sin was to be married to the man who ran against Mayor Carl Strye.
  • Nazareth retaliated against and ultimately fired Officer Fred Lahovski for casting a spotlight on mismanagement within the police department.in what appears to be a "custom and culture of disregard" for the constitutional rights of residents and even some police officers.
  • Officer Lahovski had prepared policies and procedures for dealing with mentally ill persons and those in emotional crisis, but they were never acted on by Borough Council or the Mayor. 
Here's what some those who knew Timothy recently had to say on the second anniversary of his death:

Latita Hill: Rip Tim you will b truly missed u were always there making someone smile u were a good person + fun to b around my condolences to his family + friends : (

Simone Attel Rip thoughtss n prayers to his family may he b at peace what beautiful man so sad

Angela Rose Thank you Julie Brennan. Timmy, we miss you so much already. My heart hurts.

My understanding that additional suits arising out of Stickergate and the firing of a crossing guard are imminent.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Kassis Candidacy Fails (Updated)

Judicial candidate Abe Kassis finished second (7,382 votes) in Tuesday's primary. He finished second among both Democrats and Republicans, but needed to finish first. Republicans, who are very loyal, stayed with Vic Scomilio (4,720 votes), who received his party's endorsement. Democrats went with Sam Murray (5,079 votes).

In his first bid for judge, Abe waited too long to enter the race and fell short. He did not try hard enough. This time, he tried too hard. He outspent everyone 2 to 1, and tried to appear to be all things to all people. He is a man of great personal integrity and charm, and I hope he brushes this off and tries again.

(Blogger's Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that Kassis was top vote-getter. That error has been corrected.)

Tea Party Candidates Fail in Bethlehem Tp

An organized faction of the local tea party calling themselves the Republican Action Team (RAT) have failed in a Bethlehem Township attempted takeover. The three candidates they fielded - Robert Birk, Wayne Buller and Fran Blatz - fell short.

In the at-large race, incumbent Marty Zawarski grabbed 393 GOP votes, compared to Birk's 323 and another 242 that went to Paul Weiss, who played the role of spoiler. In Ward 1, incumbent Tom Nolan (188 votes) crushed RAT Wayne Buller (52 votes) and rt Murphy (76 votes).. In Ward 3, incumbent Phil Barnard (140 votes) easily overcame a challenge by RAT Fran Blatz (73 votes).

The RATs refused to appear at a debate concerning this race, hosted by Republicans.

Zawarski is likely to face Democrat Jack Glogola, who waged a write-in campaign, in the Fall. Democrats cast 235 write-in votes, and my guess is that most went to Glagola, a transparency advocate opposed to a development next to wetlands called Green Pond Marsh. Another Democrat, Kim Jenkins, will face Phil Barnard.

Pat Broscius Will Be Bethlehem Tp's Next Magisterial District Judge

In a race involving about 7,000 candidates,  493 Democrats and 377 Republicans voted to elect Assistant District Attorney Pat Broscuis as Bethlehem Tp's next Magisterial District Judge. The seat is being vacated by incumbent Joseph Barner. She is a class act who deserves to be there.

UNOFFICIAL: Ron Angle Has Enough Write-Ins to Run For Controller

According to the unofficial tally, Ron Angle will be on the ballot this Fall as the Republican candidate for Controller. That's bad news for incumbent Steve Barron, who has been effective in recent years. It's worse news for John Brown, who has been a disaster as Executive and is sitting on a slush fund of casino table games revenue.

See You Thursday

After a fifteen hour day at the polls, I really wanted to write about the elections. But that became impossible as people hit me with text after text and phone call. I know the election is mostly good news, but I am too tired to focus right now. Some very good people - Sam Murray, Ed Hozza, Jr, Pat Broscius and David Tidd, are winners. That makes us all winners. I will have more to say Thursday after getting some needed rest.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Turnout Low in Hanover 3

As of 11:17 am, 61 of 897 registered voters have cast a ballot. That's 6.8% so far.

Repyneck Continues to Demonstrate Ignorance of Law

In the Hellertown-Lower Saucon Magisterial District Judge race, David Repyneck has pretty much established that he'll be unfair. He has repeatedly accused incumbent David Tidd of "severely lacking" personal integrity. He has demonstrated a bias against Protection From Abuse Act Orders, which he would be called upon to grant on an emergency basis. He incorrectly believed that other elected officials were prohibited from endorsing candidates. He accused an elected official of sign vandalism with absolutely no evidence. And on his Facebook page, he now claims to be taking "appropriate action" against Attorney Amanda Kurecian for an ad that accurately observes that he lacks the certification he needs to sit in judgment of others.

According to Repyneck, "The law states that candidates cannot run negative ads in publications 8 days or less without furnishing the candidate in question a copy and receiving that candidate’s permission to run the ad."  But that's not the law.

In 1980, The Pennsylvania Supreme Court declared unconstitutional any law requiring a candidate to give reasonable notice to an opponent before running any ad. First Amendment, you know. Repyneck hasn't got that far in his reading of the Bill of Rights.

"Sally" Dedicated at SteelStacks

Marcia Hahn, 96 yo cancer survivor Mae Trexler,
daughter Linda Trexler and LV Pink Heals
founder Bill Andress
"Sally," a 53 year-old pink firetruck dedicated to raising awareness of women's health issues, was dedicated during a brief ceremony at SteelStacks on May 16. Though no longer making fire calls, this vehicle will now make home visits to women battling illness. As Lehigh Valley Pink Heals founder Bill Andress explained, Sally recently visited a woman battling cancer in Nazareth, at the lead of a procession of volunteer firefighters who provided flowers, hugs and hope.

About forty well-wishers attended, including State Rep. Marcia Hahn. She presented Andress with a certificate of recognition from the State House. "It's the first time I've ever been served papers in public," Andress quipped.

PinkHealsLV provides $1,745 check to LV
Cancer Support Community
Sally has room for people to chronicle their own battles with illness. In black pen, they inscribe encouraging words or messages to loved ones who have passed on..

The star of the ceremony was Mae Trexler, a 96 year-old woman who faced cancer 18 years ago, and beat it.

All funds raised by Pink Heals, which is 100% volunteer and 100% nonprofit, stays in the local community. "We are about serving women, not serving causes," insisted Andress..

He presented a $1,745.97 check to Paula Sue Ream, Executive Director of the LV Cancer Support Community.  Her group offers a wide variety of programs and services to people battling cancer, all at no charge. .

Rev. Peter Bredlau, Pastor at St. Mark's Lutheran Church in Bethlehem Township, called Sally a "beacon of hope for all people - patients, survivors and families."  He also joked that he hopes he looks as good as Sally does when he's 53. That's largely due to Bethlehem Area Vo-Tech students, who turned a rusting and decommissioned firetruck into a pink lady.
One of the touching messages on the Pink Lady

It''s In Your Hands Now

As I do every election cycle, I've managed to piss off half the civilized world with my election coverage. Now it is up to you.

If you don't take an interest in your government, I can assure you that your government has a nasty tendency to take an interest in you, and in ways you don't like.


Hanover Tp Observes 4th Annual Armed Forces Day

Despite threatening skies, Hanover Township celebrated its 4th annual Armed Forces Day on May16th at Armed Services Park, dedicated to the men and women who are serving and have served in all branches of the military. Residents and dignitaries gathered underneath the flags of each branch of service, along with the Stars and Stripes to reflect on the sacrifices made by those in uniform. The entire Board of Supervisors attended the ceremony, and laid a wreath at the memorial.

State Senator Mario Scavello and State Representative Marcia Hahn also attended, but they gave no speeches. Those came from Lieutenant Commander (LCDR) Seth Phillips, USN (Ret.) one of only eight rabbis who acted as US Navy Chaplains during his time of service (1992-2012). The audience also heard from Chief Warrant Officer (CWO4) Donald E Smith, USA (Ret.) a Hanover Resident whose Naval career spanned more than 50 years. He's been a member of Congressman Charlie Dent's Military Academy Selection Board for the last 23 years, and described the military careers of several Hanover residents who attended the military academies.

Music entertainment was provided the Brass Ensemble of the American legion of Bethlehem. Post 379 also provided an honor guard, which presented a 21-gun salute in honor of the fallen.

In his benediction, Rabbi Phillips reminded the crowd of these words from Archibald MacLeish's The Young Dead Soldiers Who Do Not Speak:
"We leave you our deaths. Give them their meaning.
We were young, they say. We have died; remember us."
As his words withered away, WWII Veteran LeRohn "Dan" Deysher stood a distance from the crowd, and played Taps. Deysher served three years during WWII in the United States Navy aboard the USS Pennsylvania as Mus1C from the Aleutians to Okinawa, followed by three years shore duty to complete his enlistment. Retiring from Bethlehem Steel in 1984, he has played Taps for over 3,000 military funerals, Memorial Day services and other remembrances.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Judge Giordano Receives Another Police Endorsement

Last month, the Pennsylvania State Troopers' Association endorsed Judge Emil Giordano's bid for the Superior Court. That was followed quickly by Bethlehem's FOP. Now the Le-Hampton Lodge FOP, which represents 39 different police departments throughout the Lehigh Valley, has unanimously voted that Giordano is its choice on the Superior Court. President Gene Hatcher has sent this letter to Judge Giordano.
As President of Fraternal Order of Police Le-Hampton Lodge 35, it is an honor to inform you that our membership has voted unanimously to endorse you for Judge of the Pennsylvania Superior Court. Your track record and commitment to the safety of Pennsylvania’s citizens and law enforcement community are outstanding. Your continuing efforts and dedication to your profession have earned our support.

Express Times Publishes One NorCo Election Story

There are several wide-open races in Northampton County. On the county level alone, there are two council districts up for grabs. There is also a judgeship very much in dispute. Yet The Express Times has written nothing about these races, leaving readers to run to The Morning Call or elsewhere for information.

But on election eve, it has published a story about the Controller's race, even though no Republican is on the ballot. The article notes Ron Angle's write-in bid, but fails to mention another Republican write-in hopeful.

Ron won't be the Republican's candidate unless 250 of them write in his name. If he really wanted this, he would have circulated. What his candidacy does do is make it more difficult for Barron to wage his own write-in race. Yet The Express Times has placed him on equal footing with another candidate who actually is on the ballot, incumbent Steve Barron.

I have no problem with informing people about this race. but why nothing about other races where the candidate names actually appear on the ballot?

My Election Picks: Who Gets My Kiss of Death?

Below are my picks for candidates I consider best suited to the job. Who wins is a different matter. I am often reminded of my fallibility after elections, and this year will be no exception. I'm no Buddy Christ. I just think I am.

You can read more about some of these races in my campaign pages, on the left sidebar, and at the Lehigh Valley League of Women Voters. .

Northampton County Council District Three

John Cusick (R candidate)

Mickey Thompson (R candidate)

Though Cusick has County experience, Thompson's knowledge of nursing homes could prove invaluable in turning Gracedale around. Cusick and Executive John Brown, whose leadership has been a disaster, were overheard disparaging Thompson. That's why I would recommend Mickey over John.

Northampton County Council District Four

Lorin Bradley (Republican)

Matthew Dietz (Republican)

Bradley;'s specialty is human relations, an area in which Executive John Brown has failed miserably. So despite his ridiculous support for a public paid public relations consultant, I believe he could help turn around poor morale. I also admire his transparency. Dietz impressed me as well, despite his appearance on tea party radio.But it's hardto dispute Bradley's impressive credentials.

Northampton County Judge

Abe Kassis

Sam Murray

Vic Scomillio

Sam Murray has the most experience of the three, has served as a Master and a Juvenile Hearing Officer for the courts, and is the only man in recent history I know to march a little known Little League team from Bethlehem right into the World Series. I think Abe tried too hard, and as a result became deceptive in his mailers and with his support base. Scomillio has been tainted by his association with Executive John Brown, and i especially don't like the idea that he fured someone just before Christmas, while driving somewhere.

Bethlehem City Council four year seats (three)

Mike Recchiuti (i)

Willie Reynolds (i)

Michael Colon

Shawn Martell

Bethlehem City Council two year seat (one)

Jeff Kocsis (two year)

Matt McKernan  (two year)

Olga Negron (two year)

While I think there should be term limits on Bethlehem City Council seats to keep developers from pouring money down their throats, I believe Reynolds and Recchuiti have been effective on Council, and have worked with Mayor Bob Donchez. Martell impressed me just a little more than Colon. For the two year seat, I had a very difficult time between Kocsis and McKernan. I went with Kocsis only because I've heard that McKernan intends to run again in two years if he loses. He should. I even ended up being favorably impressed by Negron's refusal to take money from developers, but not by her ties to Allentown Mayor Edwin Pawlowski.

1st Ward

✓Tom Nolan, an engineer at Lehigh Heavy Forge, is a voice of reason in an often unreasonable Board. Yet he has two Republican opponents. One of them is former Commissioner Art Murphy, who works for Selvaggio and Son. The other, Wayne Buller, is definitely a tea party and RAT favorite. Regulars like Ben Hedrick, Andy Azan and Melissa Miller (significant other of NorCo Council member Seth Vaughn) are behind this campaign. At a debate, Murphy slammed Housenick Park Committee, and often spoke out against funding the library.

3rd Ward

✓ Phil Barnard, Manager at Bay Insulation, has been another moderating influence on the Board. Well-spoken and thoughtful, he really listens to residents and tries very hard to be transparent. He's precisely the kind of guy who Republicans should be embracing and grooming for higher office. I could see him as County Executive or in the State Senate.

Phil two opponents, Republican Fran Blatz and Democrat Kim Jenkins. Blatz, whom I believe to be the tea-party candidate, is listed as the Pro-life leader at Our Lady of Perpetual Help. Jenkins is the Secretary of the Bethlehem Township Athletic Association, which Barnard has steadfastly supported during his four years as a Commissioner. .

Phil deserves re-election.

At Large

✓ Incumbent Marty Zawarski is being challenged by two former Republican. They include Paul Weiss and the tea party sponsored candidate, Bob Birk.

To his credit, Zawarski is running hard. That, or unopposed, is the only way to go. Weiss, a good man, is running out of bitterness and not for the right reasons. Birk, whose ethics statement lists his occupation as "unemployed" and has posted yard signs calling the office "comissioner," would make the Township Board a laughing stock.

Zawarski is clearly the best choice among the three Republicans.

Lehigh County Commissioner. - On the R side, the only two candidates worthy of any support are ✓ Dean Browning and ✓Vic Mazziotti. Though they despise each other, they both have commanding knowledge of public finance and both are men of conscience. They'd do better working with each other than against each other. The other candidates include a Commissioner with no backbone (Brad Osborne), a home-schooled music teacher who lives with her mommy and daddy (Amanda Holt) and an arrogant bicyclist who wears bug suits (Marty Nothstein).

There are also four Democrats who are unopposed in their primary.

Whitehall Mayor. - If you believe in democracy, ✓ Ed Hozza, Jr. should be your choice. If you believe in an urban growth regime in which only the monied are heard and are willing to cede over control to Allentown, just write in Pawlowski. Or megalomaniac. Same thing.

Bethlehem Township Mini-Judge. - Three Assistant DAs are seeking the seat being vacated by Magisterial District Judge Joe Barner. Though all three are well-suited, my first choice is ✓ Pat Broscius. As an Assistant District Attorney, she was a powerful voice for children who are sadly neglected and abused, often in the most horrendous ways. It is easy for a person who sees those tragedies every day become bitter, but that never happened to Pat. Like Magisterial District Judge Jackie Taschner one said to me when she was still a DA, "I'm a prosecutor, not a persecutor." It is very possible that Sandy McClure will prevail on the Democratic side. Bill Blake is another very capable person.

Hellertown-Lower Saucon Mini-Judge. - I expect to see ✓ David Tidd easily re-elected on both sides of the ballot. He is simply the best candidate. Repyneck ran an ugly campaign, and made too many wild and reckless allegations to be taken seriously. Amanda Kurecian acted with honor and should be commended.

Bethlehem Mini-Judge. - ✓ Roy Manwaring has spent next to no money for re-election, and most of it comes from his own pocket. Her deserves another term. I never really understood why paul Bender challenged him.

Supreme Court. - My two top picks are Democrat ✓Kevin Dougherty and Republican ✓Corry Stevens.

Superior Court. - Lehigh Valley favorite son ✓ Emil Giordano.

Commonwealth Court. - Coalcracker ✓ Todd Eagen.

Why is Michael Assise Really Running For Constable?

Though not much is known about them, constables have existed for a long time. They've been around since the time of Edward Longshanks. During the American Revolution, they were called "chief guardians of the peace." These days, they mostly serve warrants for outstanding parking tickets.

Unlike most peace officers, constables are elected to six-year terms. Once they complete their 80 hours of training and file proof they have liability insurance, their jurisdiction is statewide. A constable elected in Nazareth, for example, can spend his time serving warrants in Milford if he's pals with the magistrate there.

Micaael Assise is opposing long-time Constable Doug Fulmer in Palmer Township I've met Fulmer while working the polls in Palmer and paying off a ticket at Magisterial District Judge Jackie Taschner's office. He towers over most people, and my guess is that most respect his authotah, even Cartman. But his chief weapon is his disarming smile.

Yet Fulmer is being challenged by Michael Assise, who has signs throughout Palmer touting his seven years of experience in law enforcement. What he fails to mention is that he was let go as a police officer in four different municipalities Wilson Borough, Palmer Township, Nazareth and Hellertown.

Assise, you may recall, is the tavern operator accused and acquitted of buying stolen lobster tails for The Brickhouse Tavern. He claimed at the time he had no idea they were stolen.

As a Wilson police officer, he was fired for his own admitted use of excessive force against an individual charged with disorderly conduct. Assise also acknowledged, in his third interview with Chief Steven Parkansky about the incident, that his original account of the matter had been deceptive. Chief Parkansky withdrew the disorderly conduct charges filed against an innocent person.

I called him about his race and he had no idea that winning does not guarantee him any work. That decision is made by a Magisterial District Judge who could just as easily decide to giver the work to someone else. So why is he running?

He told me that someone "higher up" encouraged him to run. He declined to name that person, but it's no secret that he and judicial candidate Abe Kassis share many of the same Lebanese supporters.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Tea Party Extremists Aid in Kassis Deception

Our local tea party fear-mongering
The Lehigh Valley Tea Party Facebook is apoplectic about a mailer that links judicial candidate Abe Kassis, a Democrat, to them at a tea party meeting on February 18. Chair Ronnie DelBacco denies there was a meeting that date or that Kassis "personally sought out the signatures of Tea Party leadership." He goes on to accuse judicial candidate Sam Murray, another Democrat, of "outright lies."

Here are the facts.

A faction of the Lehigh Valley Tea Party, calling itself the Republican Action Team (RAT), has been established. They call themselves the RATS, and include the local tea party leadership. Ronnie DelBacco (organized protest against foreign children at KidsPeace), Tom Campione (fighting for guns in parks), Tom Carroll (failed mayoral and judicial candidate) and Bryan Eichfeld (wants "true science" taught at Saucon Valley) are tea party leaders who are members of this faction. It's very difficult to maintain that there's any real difference between the tea party and the RATS.

The RATS had a petition-signing party on February 18 at Frank's Pizza in Bethlehem. "Please help us out and share this event with your friends and family who are registered Republicans!" is what their Facebook notice stated.

Kassis attended this meeting of the most extreme members of the tea party and personally circulated the petition obtaining their signatures. He then allowed tea party extremist Tom Carroll to circulate on his behalf and obtain signatures from even more tea party members.

He spent so much time with the tea party that he was late to a meeting with Easton Democrats that evening. He apologized that he had been at "another meeting," but failed to tell these Democrats where he was or what he had been doing.

This is something undecided Democrats need to know before they cast their vote.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Abe Kassis and His False Advertising

Sam Murray with his real daughter
Abe Kassis is one of three candidates running to be Northampton County's next common pleas judge. He wants it badly, and is outspending everyone two to one. But there's a danger in wanting something too badly. It makes you do stupid things. In Abe's case, he's trying to be all things to all people Along the way, he has been deceptive.

At the onset of the campaign, Kassis actively sought out support from the most vitriolic extremists within the tea party. People like Ronnie DelBacco and Tom Campione, who give ordinary Republicans the willies. He has another one of these extremists circulate in his behalf. At the same time, Kassis was telling Easton Democrats that he's one of theirs.

Then the campaign ads started, one of which includes a picture of a group of cute kids sitting on Abe's lap The rent-a-kids picture was used to counter the reality that both of Abe's opponents - Sam Murray and Vic Scomillio - are family men. Abe is not.

Then came the preprimary report, revealing that Abe had paid political consultant Tom Severson $37,600. For those of you who don't know who Severson is, he was convicted of filing deceptive campaign expense reports in 2010. That explains the rent-a-kids deception.

The dishonesty continues. A recent campaign mailer starts like this:,

the Only Democrat for Judge:

If you go beyond the colon, you see the qualifiers. But if you don't, and just glance at the ad like 90% of us do, you might start thinking Abe Kassis is the only Democrat in the race. He's not. He's the only Democrat who sought out support from the right wing fringe. But there's another Democrat running.

Sam Murray.

Son of a steelworker and seamstress, Murray does not have the money to outspend his opponents two to one. He has to put his children through school, and is unable to kick $25,000 of his own money into his campaign because he wants to do right by his children. But to his credit, Sam has made no false claims about who he is or what he brings to the bench.

He prefers to tell you the truth.

That's the kind of judge we need.

Who Are Your Election Picks?

Since January, I have done my best to provide some information that might help you decide how to vote on Tuesday. Now it's your turn to make pitches for your favorite candidates or against their opponents. Want to promote Vic Scomillio, Olga Negron, Bob Birk or Amanda Kurecian? From judge to constable, have at it. On Monday, I'll give you my picks.

West Easton Borough Council Candidate Arraigned on Fraud Charges

West Easton Borough Council candidate Tricia Mezzacappa was arraigned yesterday afternoon on charges of defrauding secured creditors, as a result of her decision to hide her car after it was levied upon by the Sheriff's Office in December. That levy was made in connection with a $71,600 judgment I have against her for defamation. Mezzacappa has stated she would rather go to jail than turn over the car. She just might get her wish.

After a preliminary hearing in March, Magisterial District Judge Richard Yetter ruled there was sufficient evidence to hold the matter for court. Deputy Sheriff SGT Michael Orchulli testified that Mezzacappa approached him as he was making the levy. She asked him to release the car to her, and agreed she would meet the Deputy at the courthouse to pick up the paperwork. He did so, but Mezzacappa broke her word and never appeared. She instead hid the car, and failed to produce it at a Sheriff's Sale.

Her trial is currently scheduled for July 6.

In addition to this criminal prosecution, Mezzacappa's mother has been sued in federal court for her participation in fraudulent conveyances of Mezzacappa's real estate and assistance in hiding her car. Mezzacappa is also an Additional Defendant, along with Jim Gregory, in litigation against a radio station that incredibly permitted  and participated with the two of them when they conducted a series of defamatory broadcasts in 2013 that only ended with Gregory's arrest.

Naturally, Mezzacappa has filed two frivolous countersuits against yours truly. But in one of them, she actually admits she's a liar. She posts an apology, if you can call it that, made while my original suit was pending. I was unable to publicly discuss this admission before, but since she attached it as an Exhibit to one of her lawsuits and makes it an issue, I'll tell you what she says:

"I am a human being and reacted to Mr. O'Hare without thinking clearly. Perhaps I overstepped my bounds. I apologize to him for the comments I made. ... I went too far. ... Therefore, he has my most heartfelt apology."

She essentially admits the defamation, but has since claimed that was a lie.

She has still failed to turn over the car or sign over the deed to her home.

Justice Corry Stevens 10-Point Plan to Improve Judicial System

Justice Correale Stevens has always been one to swim against the tide. During his days on the Superior Court, he and fellow Judge Jack Panella began reaching out to the public with court sessions conducted at local colleges. Both are great believers in transparency.

When Justice Stevens was elevated to the state's highest court, Chief Justice Ron Castille lauded him:
"He brings a wealth of experience from the executive and legislative branches and from his recent service as president judge of Pennsylvania’s Superior Court. The transition to the Supreme Court will be difficult because it is a different court than the one he has been serving and the learning curve will be long and steep. But I know Judge Stevens will approach his new assignment with the same commitment and determination that he has brought to all of his professional challenges."
Against his own party's wishes, Justice Stevens believes he deserves election to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. So do I. Below is his 10-point plan to improve our judicial system:

  1. Direct for appropriate oversight, accountability and periodic review of all Court-appointed boards, committees and speciality courts without interfering with their ability to perform their duties in an autonomous, independent manner.
  2. Direct the Appellate Rules Committee to obtain public input and draft a Rule permitting members of the media to use electronic devices, such as laptops, to email and text from the courtroom during trials and to open the courts to televising proceedings, all of which will promote openness.
  3. Direct that all appellate courts hold occasional argument sessions in schools, on college and law school campuses as well as in counties across the state and to allow television coverage of those sessions, which will give members of the public an opportunity to see their courts in action.
  4. Direct that the judiciary promote and work to improve equal access to justice.
  5. Direct that all members of the judiciary have ethics training.
  6. Direct that all appellate court judges regularly provide continuing legal education programs to lawyers and work closely with the Pennsylvania Bar Association and local bar associations.
  7. Direct that all appellate court memos, as well as opinions, be posted online for public access.
  8. Direct regular court education programs with participation by judges for child advocate organizations, victims rights groups, crime watch and other community groups.
  9. Direct the judiciary promote and maintain appropriate, professional contact with the Legislative and the Executive branches of government while maintaining its judicial independence.
  10. Direct and promote continued positive relationships between the Supreme Court and the county courts and magisterial district judges.

Stevens believes that all areas of the court system, whether it be conduct of judges, administrative matters, reporting of cases, using technology, courtroom demeanor, and the administration of justice in Pennsylvania must continually be open to review, discussion, input and change.