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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Judge Sletvold's Intimidation of Criminal Defense Lawyers

Judge Jennifer Sletvold
I was appalled this past weekend by Riley Yates' story that Judge Jennifer Sletvold had recused herself in a stalking and terroristic threats case against Clinton Oxford. I thought that Yates might have misinterpreted what she said, so I got the opinion myself (You can read it below). Yates was right on the money. Sletvold engaged in blatant judicial intimidation aimed right at the criminal defense bar. Her ruling is designed to have a chilling impact on the Sixth Amendment right to the assistance of counsel in criminal cases.

A lawyer who represents someone in a criminal case has a duty to represent his client zealously within the bounds of the law  Regardless of personal beliefs, his job is to insure that the person he represents gets the best possible defense he can provide. But this runs counter to a factory system of criminal justice in which defense lawyers are all too often regarded by judges as the third wheel on a bicycle rolling an accused off a cliff.

Judges are interested in putting up numbers. That's why they want a conflicts counsel present on arraignment day, when over a hundred people are herded in and out like cattle. That conflicts counsel, who should only represent indigent defendants because of a conflict in the Public Defender's office, will approach Defendants who could easily afford a lawyer and "represent " them for free. The goal is to rush an unwitting defendant, who just might be innocent, into a plea. If that ruins his life, well that's just too bad. The court can retreat to its sanctum sanctorum, isolated from the public, and grow increasingly concerned about low class people who always are getting in trouble.

Recently, there was a conflicts counsel who actually thought his job was to represent his clients zealously. So he filed all kinds of motions  But some were febrile. He even tried to subpoena an assistant DA whom he thought had committed perjury. Some of his work was the product of being both callow and a bit too enthusiastic.

Instead of seasoning and encouraging him, the court stopped using him.

All of this brings us to Clinton Oxford, who was stalking and threatening his probation officer. She is a very nice person and consummate professional. I sat in on part of the trial. Oxford was guilty as hell, and obviously needs help for mental health issues as well as substance abuse. Not only did Sletvold deny a mental health evaluation, but she waxed him up with a 10-19 1/2 year sentence, which is ridiculously harsh. .

Was Judge Sletvold biased?

Before she was a judge, Sletvold once represented this probation officer and disclosed this fact. Nobody complained until Oxford was convicted, so he's in no position to complain now.

But Sletevold is most certainly biased. So is the entire court. That's because the victimized probation officer is a judicial employee. She works for the judges. There is no way they were going to allow Clinton Oxford to walk after terrorizing one of their own. But trial lawyer Tony Ryback was repeatedly chastised when he tried to make this argument, even to the point of admonishing him in front of the jury and dragging in the Chief Public Defender in an attempt to intimidate him further.

The NorCo probation office had the pre-sentence report prepared by another county precisely because they had the good sense to recognize they were biased. So is the court.

The two lawyers at whom Judge Sletvold has directed her venom - Tony Rybak and Tyree Blair - made many arguments I consider spurious. Rybak's courtroom antics and brief on appeal are feckless. Tyree Blair's reference to nonexsistent Facebook conversation between judge and victim or Morning Call conversations between judge and reporter are risibly absurd. But as Judge Sletvold seems to have forgotten, they both had an obligation to provide a zealous representation. Blair made clear that he had no evidence to back up these strange allegations, so he acted within the bounds of the law.

In short, they both acted ethically. Sletvold did not. She observed that Oxford, the man she sent away for ten years, demonstrated a "marked lack of boundaries." She adds that Rybak and Blair "have demonstrated that they share this quality."

Maybe she should send them away for 10-19 1/2 years.

Sletvold's opinion castigates two lawyers who decided to do their job instead of making it easy for the court to rack up numbers. Hopefully, the defense bar has noticed.

PJ Coyne and the Intimidation Game

My father
I recently had a frank, off-the-record conversation with a judge who at one point suggested that I need to be a bit more like my father. If I was a bit more like my father, I would have suggested that he go fuck himself.

I'm much nicer.

Let me tell you two quick stories about my father, an active trial lawyer who took no shit from anyone, least of all a judge.

The first is one he told us all at the dinner table, when I was a young snot. He had really irritated a Bucks County judge that day, and was warned, "Mr. O'Hare, you are close to being in contempt of this Court."

"Close is not enough," was my Dad's reply.

The second story is one I witnessed. It happened in Lehigh County It was back in the days of President Judge Coyne, a 100% prick. At that time, he and only he was running criminal lists, civil lists, custody lists and estates. He didn't trust the other judges because some of them still remembered what it was like to be a lawyer.

My father was in the middle of a construction arbitration involving lots of money, and was kicking ass. But his partner had a custody case and would be running late. He asked my Dad to announce that the case was "ready" when it was called by Coyne. The partner would be there in an hour or so and Coyne would never miss him.

So there my Dad sat with a gaggle of other lawyers like Ham Neely, waiting for His Majesty to get off the judicial shitter.

At one point, Ham turned to my Dad and said, "You know, Barnie, any one of these bastards can sentence you to death, but only Coyne can give you a continuance."

Eventually, Coyne appeared, my Dad announced the custody case was ready, and left for his arbitration on the top floor.

Unfortunately, Coyne raced through the custody list and soon got to the one my father said was ready. He somehow learned that my father was in this arbitration, and sent his Master, Ted Gillespie, to get him.

"I'm busy, damn it," my father told Gillespie. "Tell him I'm busy."

"Bernie O'Hare told me to tell you he's busy," Gillespie reported to Coyne.

The PJ exploded, and demanded that my father report to him immediately.

"Tell him I'm not here," my dad answered. "Can't you see I'm busy?"

"Bernie O'Hare told me to tell you he's not here," Gillespie reported to Coyne.

I was watching my dad in action - he really was on a roll - when the double doors to the room suddenly flew open. It was Coyne in all his judicial glory. He was still wearing his black robe, and his face was so red it could have heated the Lehigh Valley for an entire winter.

"You! You son of a bitch! Who the hell do you think you are?"

My Dad was sitting there, holding a cigarette whose ash was about three inches long. He was completely unphased.

"Didn't Ted tell you I was busy?"

While he ripped my dad up and down, my father calmly told him that his partner would be there momentarily, and that the judge was interfering with a previously scheduled arbitration. The judge stormed out of there with Ted Gillespie in tow. By the time he got back to his chambers, my Dad's partner was waiting ... ready.

Coyne unloaded on him, too, and even followed up with a few letters claiming he was going to the Disciplinary Board.

It blew over, although Coyne harped on it with me a few times after I was admitted to the bar.

Coyne was playing the intimidation game. The Court has to be respected. But once you let a judge intimidate you, it's all over.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Fed Ed Investigation: Cedar Beach Pool and Possible Bid Rigging

If you think the federal investigation into political corruption is over, better think again. The Grand Jury is still gathering information, as some employees in the city's Public Works department can tell you. "It was the worst day of my life," says one of them.

According to three different sources I'm unwilling to name, I hear the following:  
  • A new round of indictments is coming. I hear it is "soon." That could mean tomorrow, or next month.
  • Feds are looking into the $1.8 million renovation project at Cedar Beach pool. That project was supposed to be completed by June of this year. Then it was July. The project was still unfinished on August 29. "Unforeseen conditions" claimed City spokesperson "Mike Moore," who lacks the honesty to use his real name.  (Maybe they found Jimmy Hoffa).
  •  Believe it or not, there are allegations that federal investigators have honed in on bid-rigging, something that happened for the City's tax collection contract with Northeast Revenue. According to these sources, the ties to Allentown Mayor Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski are much more clear. "They have him dead to rights," says one of them. 

Retirement Community at Green Pond Closer to Reality

Green Pond marsh
Controversial plans to build a retirement community adjacent to environmentally sensitive wetlands, smack dab in the middle of an Audubon-designated "Important Bird Area," have come closer to reality. Bethlehem Township's Planning Commission decided  to recommend approval of a "tentative" plan at a meeting last night that was far less crowded than during some earlier presentations. Recommending approval were Kenn R. Edinger, Mark Grandinetti, Harry Powell, Leslie Walker and James Daley. "It's time to move this down the road," said Edinger. Don Wright was the sole No vote. Lee Snover abstained, but chaired the meeting.

Developer Traditions of America (TOA) has reduced the density of the development while increasing the amount of open space as well as buffering the wetlands area. The number of homes will decrease from the original 261 to 229. Open space has been increased from 22 to 29 acres, with 18 of those acres as true open space, independent of any storm water management. Buffering of at least 50' will surround the wetlands. The closest any home will be to the wetlands in 309.'

Attorney Gregg Adelman, who represents TOA, explained that all storm water will be managed on site or at the adjacent golf course. There will be no discharge onto other properties. Their studies indicate there will be no sinkholes, and ponds will have liners to prevent mishaps.

He told Les Walker that the homeowners' association will be required to hire a third-party expert to manage the wetlands. Prominent Easton attorney Tom Elliott, a resident and former Township Solicitor, scoffed that environmentally sensitive wetlands will be the last thing on the minds of homeowners concerned about snow plowing and streets.

"We've demonstrated the feasibility we need for recommendation of a tentative plan," he said.

Adelman told Don Wright that if the development is approved, deed restrictions will be imposed on the adjacent golf course, preventing its use as anything but a golf course or open space.

Solicitor Wendy Nicolosi explained that approval of a "tentative plan" for a planned residential development like Green Pond Marsh is less stringent than what is required for a preliminary plan, although there are pages of requirements that must be approved by the Commissioners. No building permits may be issued, nor can development proceed without final plan approval.

Part of the tentative plan calls for scraping 150 sq ft of the wetlands to widen Farmersville Road and then adding to the wetlands elsewhere.

"How do you replicate a wetland that has been there 200-300 years?" asked a dubious Kathy Glagola. "You think you're just going to dredge and make it the same?"

"I'm going to follow the DEP regulations," answered Adelman.

Commissioners will now have to review the tentative plan. Two of them, Tom Nolan and Malissa Davis, were at last night's meeting.

Nazareth Refuses To Pay Benefits To Retired Road Crew Worker

Roger Herman
Roger Herman loves his job on Lower Nazareth's road crew. What he really likes about it is that the people he works for, from Manager Timm Tenges to Supervisors to residents, let him know he is appreciated.  And why not? Outside of public safety, road maintenance is the most important function in most townships, boroughs and cities. As most elected officials will themselves tell you, the road crews and first responders who keep our streets clean and safe are the real face of local government. They turn the wheels of government from their police cruisers and plows. When a little boy or girl wanders off, chances are that one of them will notice before anything unfortunate happens.

Things are different in the Nazareth Circus, also known as  Borough Council. A small and insular group of autocrats think that they, and not the people on the front lines, make things happen. They refused to do anything about Mayor Carl Srtye, who actually admitted to skimming money from a volunteer fire company. They rallied around him until the District Attorney insisted that he resign if he wanted ARD, a special program for first offenders.

These Council members have also interfered in police operations. One of them, Larry Stoudt, was actually charged for interfering with a state investigation into illegal gambling at the local social clubs. He illegally pressured the Chief to run the license plate of someone he suspected was an undercover agent

They look down their noses at the road crew, too, disparaging them as "the Mexicans."

Herman is one of those Mexicans. He used to work on Nazareth's road crew. He was hired there in October 1994. He was unhappy at how he and his fellow workers were treated. He belonged to a union, but the steward was Larry Stoudt's nephew, Robert. .

After 21 years, Herman decided it was time to go somewhere else. He gave notice that he was retiring in June 2015. In addition to rolling over his pension, he asked the Borough to reimburse him for his clothing allowance, accumulated sick pay and longevity. This request was pursuant to a written employment contract with the borough, under which he was contractually entitled to these benefits.

Herman received a response from Solicitor Al Pierce on July 10, denying his request.
"Nazareth Borough Council has accepted your resignation, effective 6/26/15. Nazareth Borough Council has determined that your termination did not constitute retirement and that you are therefore not eligible for a half a year's clothing allowance, longevity pay for 2015 and sick day pay. Council has authorized the payment of wages as provided by the final payroll for your period of employment."
I was unaware that Nazareth Borough Council had the authority to ignore its own employment contract. I decided to look at the minutes of their July 6, 2015 meeting to see whether Herman's resignation was accepted, as Pierce claims. I also looked to see if the Borough Council rejected his claim for benefits, as Pierce claimed.

As I suspected, the minutes make no such mention. That means one of two things. Either Borough Council made these decisions behind closed doors in violation of the state Sunshine Act, or Pierce is talking out of his ass.

Now Borough Council is allowed to discuss personnel matters in the back room, but all decisions must be made publicly. In Nazareth, the state Sunshine Act is regarded more as a recommendation than as law. That's what you'd expect from an outfit that thinks it can unilaterally disregard an employment contract, especially when it involves one of the "Mexicans."

Herman ended up suing.

"You can only take so much," he told me, and hired Connie Nelson, a prominent Easton lawyer and former assistant District Attorney.  His is the seventh lawsuit filed by an employee against Nazareth since 2013. Unlike the other lawsuits, which involve the deprivation of civil rights, Herman just wanted his benefits. He went to small claims court, and got a judgment against Nazareth for $10,976.88 on 2/4/16, following a hearing before Magisterial District Judge Robert Hawke.

At that hearing, Al Pierce the Solicitor suddenly became a witness. His associate, Scott Steier, tried the case. That way they could charge Nazareth double for their time.

Instead of just paying Herman, Nazareth appealed, and Herman had to file a complaint in county court.

Though Connie Nelson attached a copy of the contract and his own demand to her complaint, Pierce and Steier tried to get it bounced

As you probably guessed, they got bounced instead. A perplexed Judge Emil Giordano overruled their preliminary objections, noting that Herman has stated "a prima facia breach of contract claim."    

But Pierce and Steier have been able to pad their bill a little more, even though they must know they have a loser.    

"I want the taxpayers to know that they're just wasting money," Herman told me. 'The only ones making out here are the lawyers."

Chief Thomas Trachta and Officer Stephen Scheig have three active suits against Nazareth. A complaint filed by probationary officer Adam Shimer was dismissed, but he managed to get a job as a full-time police officer in Palmerton. Fred Lahovski and Connie McGinnis settled their lawsuits. Lahovski was paid $440,000, which is the largest sum I've seen awarded to police officer for a civil rights claim in the Lehigh Valley.

Herman just wants Nazareth to keep its word and pay him the $10,000 he is due.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Judge Braxton to Hear DA's Claim of Bias, Conflict

Not long ago, I told you that NorCo DA John Morganelli wants Judge John Braxton to recuse his clerk or himself or both from a homicide case against a drug dealer accused of dealing a fatal overdose. The law clerk being used by Judge Braxton happens to be a criminal defense lawyer and in the same county where this case is being heard. This would be contrary to a state supreme court.

Judge Braxton has refused to recuse himself or his clerk, stating he uses her in other counties. Morganelli discovered this claim is untrue.

A hearing has been scheduled on Morganelli's motion for Friday, 10 am, Courtroom 7.

The PC Police in Nazareth

A Nazareth Borough Police Department Facebook post, since deleted, has caused quite a stir in Northampton County officialdom. Commissioner Randy Miller, who must be dumping Nazareth for the PC police, told The Express Times that the page is not really the "official" Facebook page, though it is, as evidenced by his ability to have the message removed.  He made clear that he in no way endorses its dangerous message, and told The Morning Call it was the handiwork of a "rogue"cop. DA John Morganelli worries that the advisory encourages vigilantes to take the law into their own hands, though it in fact does the opposite.

Before I go further, let me share the portion of the now-deleted message found to be so offensive.
"We ask and encourage those of you who are responsible and educated enough to exercise your 2nd Amendment right to bear arms. Providing you can and are legally able to possess a firearm and that you follow the Pennsylvania laws and local ordinances when doing so ... If when ever possible CALL 911 FIRST, if you believe you see someone or something suspicious. Do not engage and use Extreme Caution!"
This post is a reaction to a homicide and carjacking in nearby Palmer Township. A week ago, Palmer Township resident Michael Davis was ambushed and shot in the face by two unknown assailants upon his return home from work at Verizon. The following night, Michael DeRose, who works at the very same Verizon as Davis, was ambushed as well and forced into the back of his car. He was able to escape.

These incidents appear to be related.

My only concern with this Facebook post is whether it was cleared with Palmer Tp investigators. They are tasked with the heavy responsibility of solving this murder and carjacking. I can see no reason why they'd object to a story that informs and educates the public  That was the whole point of last week's news conference. They are seeking the public's help. Still, I'd ask them first since things can change fast and this is their case.

Other than that, there is nothing improper about the post. It at no time calls on anyone to be a cowboy. It specifically urges readers to "CALL 911 FIRST" and "[d]o not engage." It also states that its message only applies to persons who will follow the law.

If you are going to complain about people arming themselves, why does the concealed carry law exist at all? Why do we even have a Second Amendment?

Let me be clear. Most of my readers know that I support tighter gun laws. I believe that people who have exhibited violent tendencies, or who have fantasized about shooting people, should be denied gun permits. I also think a person who has a gun permit should be required to take periodic gun safety courses so he does not accidentally shoot himself. I also think they should be strongly encouraged to practice ...on a range. Because I'm a klutz, I'd never carry. But the right exists and should exist.  This is far from vigilantism. It is the Constitution.

The Constitution trumps officials who worry about being politically correct. This may have served Randy Miller well over the years, at least until he came to Nazareth. Now, in addition to throwing a Nazareth police officer under the bus, he has misled the press about the Facebook page, claiming it is not a sanctioned page.

This statement is completely untrue.

The page was first established in 2009, by Michael Sinclair, when he was police chief. After he left, entries were made by Officer Peter Dewey. He left for Bushkill Township, and full-time officers with Nazareth police continued to update the page from time to time. In fact, it includes several stories featuring Miller himself.

If Miller is unfamiliar with Facebook, as he claims, he really needs to learn. It's actually a great investigative tool and is relied on by most police departments.

If Miller really wants to be politically correct, perhaps he should confront the racism that exists on Nazareth Borough Council. But they might not renew his contract.

Nazareth's Road Crew - the Mexicans

Nazareth has a seven-man road crew who have worked without a wage hike for five years. Council member Larry Soudt's nephew, Robert Stoudt, is the union steward, and he wants to keep his uncle happy. Council members like Frank Maurek refer to the road crew as "the Mexicans."  I'll have more about this tomorrow, when I'm done reviewing yet another lawsuit by an ex-employee against Nazareth. .

Bethlehem Tp Using Social Media to Increase Transparency

In an effort to reach out to the community, Bethlehem Township is increasing its use of social media. This is from Manager Melissa Shafer's latest monthly report:
• Township Website and Social Media

The Dashboard is up on the front page of the Township website. Now you can go to one spot to get up-to-date information about Township departments and finances.

We launched the Bethlehem Township YouTube page with our first video on the Township’s Leaf Collection Program. The goal is to complete a video for each of the Township departments by the end of next year, showcasing a different service that we provide.

We have also expanded our social media outreach from just Facebook to other platforms including Snapchat, Instagram, and Twitter. Our goal is to improve communication and citizen engagement and we are working on ideas for some interactive programs with the BTCC staff and Police Department.

Thanks to the hard work of our Finance Department, you can know pay your sewer bill online through a program called Invoice Cloud. A flyer is being sent with the next round of sewer bills with more information for the residents.

• Nixel

We have recently upgraded the Nixel platform for emergency alerts to allow us to take advantage of unlimited text and email alerts, social media posting, Google public alerts, anonymous tipping, severe weather alerts, and emergency voice calls. The Board may wish to consider adopting policies and procedures for the emergency voice calling component.
There is also a fairly active Bethlehem Township Police Department Facebook page, which from time to time includes pictures of people that police are trying to contact, as well as invaluable traffic information.

Above you can see the township's first video (featured above), focused on leaf collection from 9,000 properties.

As a matter of constructive criticism, I'd suggest links to the Facebook page, Youtube channel and other social media on the Township web page. It only links to the police department Facebook page.

Friday, November 25, 2016

CRPD Hosting 11th Annual "Shop With a Cop" on December 3

Officer John Harmon's kids selflessly
shopped for others in 2013 
Colonial Regional Police Department will host its 11th annual "Shop with a Cop" program on December 3. It's an opportunity to help needy families and is funded by local citizens, the officers themselves and businesses like Giant at Food Store, WalMart, Chic-Fil-A and Red Robin. The kids start off with breakfast at Chic-Fil-A, then pile into police cruisers for a ride to WalMart. They finish with lunch at Red Robin.

If you have $5 or $500 to spare, please consider a donation. The police station is located at 248 Brodhead Rd, Bethlehem, PA 18017. Its phone number is 610-861-4820. You can also email Administrative Assistant Leanna McGuigan. Her email is lmcguigan@colonialregionalpd.org .

NorCo DA Dismisses Littering Charge Against Trump Supporter

Last week, I told you that Pennylvania State Police cited West Easton's Tricia "Constable cRaZy" for littering over her Election Eve placement of pro-Trump campaign signs. They were everywhere. Telephone poles. Street signs. She got carried away.

West Easton police coverage is provided by state police. Unable to enforce local ordinances that might have applied here, they charged Mezzacappa with littering. This is covered by the state Vehicle Code.

Those charges have been dismissed at the direction of NorCo DA John Morganelli, who looked into this matter. His conclusion is that Mezzacappa was engaged in core political speech and was not scattering rubbish.

Morganelli, a Democrat, has himself been subjected to numerous venomous attacks over the years from Mezzacappa. But he is a free speech purist, an unusual trait in a district attorney. In 2004, he dismissed trespassing charges filed against peace activists who were distributing anti-war flyers on a public sidewalk outside the Palmer post office. Three years later, he dismissed criminal charges filed against a Washington Township man who was flying the American flag in an upside down position. In 2012, he refused to prosecute a troll over online comments about a judge. That year, he also dismissed attempted robbery charges against "Nature Dave," a bank protester who held a sign inside a bank, warning customers they were being robbed. he did allow a terroristic threat charge to stand.

The best way to assure that people that people you agree with are heard is to ensure that those you disagree with are heard, too.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Palmer Police Seek Leads in Fatal Shooting

Michael Davis
Palmer Township Police are looking for leads in the fatal shooting of Michael Davis, age 25, outside his home on the 2800 block of Eldridge Avenue, on Monday night at about 8:30 pm. Davis was shot once in the face. He was pronounced dead at Easton Hospital at 9 pm. Coroner Zachary Lysek has ruled that Davis' death is a homicide.

"I will tell you at the outset that there's not a lot of information that we have," said District Attorney John Morganelli. He called a news conference on Wednesday, which was attended by police officers and Lysek. Anyone with information is asked to call Palmer Township Police at 610-253-5844, ext. 1211.

Detective Timothy Ruoff stated that, after being dispatched to Davis' home, they found him lying in the front yard, with a single gunshot wound to the face. Subsequent investigation revealed that Davis had been working at Verizon in Forks Township until around 8 pm that evening, was shot while exiting from his Lexus and stumbled into the front yard, where he collapsed.

Residents in the area saw two individuals with dark clothing at the time of the shooting. They were crouched around two neighborhood vehicles parked in front of Davis' Lexus. They were seen fleeing towards Fisher Avenue after the shooting. Police are unaware if there was an escape vehicle in the vicinity.

Davis (center) with "Brotein Pac"
Both individuals were described as being about 6' tall and under 200 lbs. One was wearing a puffed rib jacket and shiny black coat. he was carrying what appeared to be a duffel bag. The second assailant was wearing a dark hoodie with a grey knit cap.

Davis lived with his parents and a sister, and they have asked for some privacy.

In an attempt to gain more information, investigators searched Davis' home and will be looking through his computer and phone to see who he was interacting with prior to his death.

"It appears to us that this individual was targeted," said Morganelli. "It does not appear to be some random act." He believes that two individuals were lying in wait for Davis to arrive, and ambushed him. He cautioned the public to remain "vigilant" and report any suspicious activity to police. He added that, since there was more than one actor, it is likely that one or both will be talking about it.

Here's my question. Who the hell lies in wait with a duffel bag?

It appears so far that only one shot was fired. It is unknown whether both assailants were armed.

Detective Ruoff stated the car has been impounded for a search by forensic experts.

Davis works five days a week, and three of those days are until 8 pm. Detective Ruoff agreed that it's possible someone may have been aware of his work schedule.

Davis' Facebook page reveals that he was a member of the National Honor Society. He also was involved in professional wrestling with UWA Elite, where he went by the name Dynamike Davis and was part of the Brotein Pac.

Sam Bennett's Homelessness Presentation

(Blogger's Note: I received at "urgent" advisory yesterday for a news conference at 11 am today at Hava Java in Allentown. I'm unable to attend myself because of my work schedule. It's kind of a combination discussion on homeless awareness along with an appeal by Sam Bennett for votes in her upcoming Mayoral campaign. Rather than making any editorial observation, I'l share this amazing news release with you in toto, and let you draw your own conclusions.)  

Wednesday 11:00 AM NOVEMBER 23, 2016
Hava Java Coffee House
526 N. 19th Street Allentown PA 18104

For one Allentown businesswoman HOMELESSNESS is PERSONAL:
Now in Dannielle Makdesi's sixth year feeding hundreds of homeless families
At her business Hava Java Coffee House
Press invited for the first time - time press and photographers/videographers can attend on Thanksgiving announced at press conference  

For one Allentown Mayoral Candidate HOMELESSNESS is PERSONAL:
Sam Bennett lived homeless on the streets of New York City in her late teens after escaping the white slavery she had been ensnared
ALSO provides first campaign update on funds raised to date
for her candidacy for Mayor
Wednesday, November 23, 2016 11:00 am Allentown, Pa. – Sam Bennett Candidate for Mayor of Allentown 2017 holds press conference with Dannielle Makdesi, Owner of Hava Java Coffee House in Allentown and Dr. Diane Scott, former ten year Superintendent of the Allentown School District. 
"Concerns about homelessness in our city rank fifth among Allentown residents in our ongoing All American City Survey we have been conducting throughout the city since Sam's campaign launched in June of this year" notes Dr. Diane Scott, who has been compiling this research as a campaign volunteer based on surveys collected at the door, at neighborhood and crime watch meetings and other gatherings.  "When I was Superintendent of ASD (from 1992 to 2002) homelessness was a very real issue for a significant percentage of our students.  I believe strongly, having observed Sam's ability to make positive change like the William Allen Construction Company that she founded when I was superintendent - that she is the right candidate for Mayor to help us improve our outcomes when it comes to homelessness for adults, families and ASD students." 
Dannielle Makdesi  stresses "it has been six years since I first started to feed the homeless on Thanksgiving here at my coffee house.  I pay for all my costs out of my own pocket and from generous donations from others in the community.  It is the least we can do for people who have, often through no fault of their own, find themselves homeless at this time of year, especially children."  Continues Makdesi,  "the press has always asked to take photos and I've always refused.  But this year, I'm inviting the press to come so others can see how important it is to give to others at this time of year - and because I'm supporting Sam for Mayor of Allentown.  She's been homeless herself and is an amazing leader.  I can't imagine a better combination for our next Mayor to deal with this issue."   
Though PA has fewer people experiencing homelessness relative to population: 12 per 10,000 versus 18.3 nationally, the Point-in-Time Count[1] administered by The National Coalition to End Homelessness in January 2015 [2] reported the Lehigh Valley had the highest percentage, 15% of unsheltered homeless people in PA, versus 11 percent statewide.  Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley reports that while 1 in 10 residents of the Lehigh Valley are now living in poverty, in Allentown, it is 3 in 10 with 38% of homeless children.  Of note, the largest subpopulation of homeless individuals and families, approximately 22% of the homeless population, were fleeing domestic violence.[3]
"My family and I are very much looking forward to assisting Danielle all day tomorrow.  Our son David and I are baking 200 homemade dinner rolls and sweet potatoes to serve the hundreds of families Danielle expects tomorrow" notes Sam Bennett.  "Having been homeless myself, I feel deep gratitude for the many blessings life has given.  We want our son David, now a freshman at William Allen High School, to experience the true meaning of Thanksgiving."
Continues Bennett "I have been a Governor Appointee to the Board of the Lehigh County Assistance Office for over fifteen years serving with pride with Linda Epstein and the late Attorney Jay Sherline.  But there are many that the assistance office might not serve, including many children - and this is of high concern" notes Bennett.  "For me, homelessness is personal.  Seeking to escape sexual abuse doled out by a 'family friend' at sixteen I ran away to New York City and was immediately snatched at Port Authority into white sexual trafficking.  Fortunate to escape when the slaver was severely wounded in a knife fight - I lived homeless on the streets of New York City during the winter of 1975 until I managed to get a job and save the money needed to get back home." 
"There are powerful 'best practices' from around the world addressing homelessness we need to consider here in Allentown.  There are many superb stakeholders who are doing much to address this problem in our community.  What we cannot do is pretend this chronic problem doesn't exist.  What we need is a Mayor with exceptional collaboration skills and a personal stake in this issue so we can maximize outcomes for our city, its residents and its homeless population.  If elected CEO of our city by my fellow residents, I would be such a Mayor."
"On Thanksgiving Eve - we'd also like to thank the many volunteers and donors, like Dr. Diane Scott and Danielle Makdesi who have given our campaign for Mayor of Allentown 2017 an ever increasing momentum as we approach the December 31, 2016 campaign filing and January's 2017 petition outcomes that will determine who is on the ballot for the May 16, 2017 primary."
·      Funds raised to date for campaign                              $40,096.15 ($8,019.23 per month average raised since campaign announcement June 2016)
·      Number of donors to date                                           87 donors ($460.87 average per donor to date - almost 20% of donors giving small amounts of money monthly)
·      Facebook Friends for Candidate                                 3552
·      Likes for Facebook Campaign Page                            700
·      LinkedIn Followers for Candidate                              1796

11:00 am         Dr. Diane Scott, former ASD Superintendent of Schools
11:10 am         Dannielle Makdesi, Owner Hava Java Coffee House
11:15 am         Sam Bennett, Candidate for Mayor of Allentown 2017
11:25 am         Dannielle Makdesi, Owner Hava Java Coffee House - announcing when press invited on Thanksgiving Day so all can understand the importance of this issue to Allentown and the Lehigh Valley community at large.
[1] endhomelessness.orgThe 2015 Point In Time Count Is Finally Here; Lisa Doran and Emanuel Cavallaro; retrieved November 19, 2016.
[2] crossroads.newsworks.orgHomeless Population Up In Pennsylvania Down Nationally; Emily Peviti; retrieved November 20, 2016; "considered...the most reliable source of statistics on homelessness in the U.S."
[3] caclv.org Who-We-Serve:Hard-Facts; Retrieved November 20, 2016.

Plastic Container Maker Gets Break in Hanover Tp

Scott Bosco and Keith Lawler
DevTech, a plastic container manufacturer, recently leased a new 120,000 sq ft facility at 5210 Jaindl Boulevard in Hanover Township. It was lured here by the state Department of Community and Economic Development and Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation with a $150,000 Pennsylvania First Program grant, $96,000 in Job Creation Tax Credits and $21,600 in state funding for employee training. The company is spending $18 million on this venture, and expects to create 32 jobs. But the company was before Hanover Township supervisors on November 22 to discuss plans for four silos and two coolers next to the manufacturing facility.

The company already has plan approval, but the addition of four silos and two coolers could be regarded as a new plan. Keystone Consulting Engineer Keith Lawler and developer Scott Bosco asked Supervisors to waive any requirement fora new plan. the silos will be 10' in diameter and 42' high, the same as the building. They will be used to store plastic preforms. The coolers will simply circulate water to cool plastic as it is made. There will be no explosive material and they will be hidden from public view. Township engineer Jim Milot and Solicitor Wendy Nicolosi raised no concerns.

Supervisors John N. Diacogiannis, Mark J. Tanczos and Michael J. Prendeville voted to grant a waiver from land development. Prendeville, who crafted the motion, conditioned the relief on removal of the silos and coolers should DevTech re-locate. Bosco told Prendeville that DevTech has a long-term lease.

Supervisors Stephen R. Salvesen and John D. Nagle were absent.

In other business, Supervisors amended the zoning ordinance to provide for brew pubs in certain districts. They also added a shared parking ordinance similar to what exists in Bethlehem.

Public Works Director Vince Milite's road crew has been busy picking up leaves. Four trucks are on the road for ten hours on weekdays and eight hours on Saturdays.

One of the final items considered was with a disc jockey for a cheerleading tournament at the community center.

"Any questions?" asked Prendeville.

"I hope not because the tournament was last Saturday," answered Manager Jay Finnigan.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Frank Galasso, WWII Vet, RIP

Easton resident Frank Galasso died at age 91 on Sunday. Peter Cochran will be part of the color guard that lays him to rest today, and wanted to pay tribute to this distinguished member of the Greatest Generation. Here's part of what Galasso's obit says:
"Frank was a decorated combat veteran, serving with the Army during World War II as a machine gunner with the 79th Infantry Division. He was awarded the French Croix De Guerre, Presidential Unit Citation and four major campaign medals. He saw action during the Normandy Invasion, D-Day at Omaha Beach, Hedgerow Battles and throughout central France, Invasion of Holland, Battle of the Bulge and the Rhine River Crossing."
His daughter-in-law Sandy worked for many years as a NorCo employee in the District Courts.

Bethlehem Township: No Tax Hike, But Sewer Bills For Some Will Rise

Andrew Freda, BT Director of Finance
It appears likely that there will be no tax hike in Bethlehem Township next year. At their November 21 meeting, Commissioners voted unanimously to advertise a 2017 budget that will keep the same 7.09 millage rate that was imposed for this year. But Commissioners are projected to spend more money than they receive in taxes and other revenue. This will create a structural deficit, which will be made up by taking it from the general fund. That will drop from $2.5 million to $1.8 million at year's end.  

A 7.09 millage rate means that a home assessed at $100,000 will receive a $709 tax bill.

Resident Roy Roth told Commissioners that Hanover Township has been able to go nine years without a tax hike,and said one of the reasons is that Hanover refuses to include grants in their budget because they are always uncertain. Tom Nolan told Roth that the Township is now putting money aside for major capital items like fire trucks.

Though the tax rate will remain the same, some Township residents will see their sewer bills go up next year. This is because Bethlehem, which handles the Township's sewage system, gave notice in October that it was increasing its rate by 6.5%.

Though the Township is passing along this increase, Finance Director Andrew Freda took an innovative approach that will spare most residents.

Currently, ratepayers pay $52.50 per quarter, so long as they use 6,000 gallons or less. If they use more, the rate is 0.0069 per gallon.

Under the new rate structure, customers who use 6,000 gallons or less will continue paying the same $52.50 they pay now. But those who use more will see an increase of 0.00707 per gallon above the 6,000 gallons.

"We have a lot of residents in the township that use far less than 6,000 gallons," said Michael Hudak. "We wanted to make sure there was no increase on their end." Malissa Davis added that the increase only applies to usage above 6,000 gallons.

The rate increase will go into effect in the second quarter in the second quarter of the year.

Freda added that ratepayers will be able to pay their sewer bills online. No registration is required, and customers can ask for email reminders or even enroll in auto-pay or pay-by-text.  

In other business, Commissioners authorized a $109,715 payment to TandM Associates as it attempts to survey its storm water problem."That is our first  foot in the door," said Hudak. They also approved a $5,442.50 to RGC Development for a backflow preventer on athletic fields referred to as the North Forty. Kim Jenkins noted that the Bulldogs, a youth sports association, has volunteered to pay half of that bill.  

DA Wants Conflicted Clerk, Biased Judge, Off Overdose Homicide

I've written pretty much in recent weeks about Northampton County's judicial law clerks. I've told you that, in addition to salaries that are much higher than they should be, these clerks have pocketed $110,225 in divorce stipends since 2010 for doing what their job already requires. In addition, two of them do legal work for attorneys who practice in this county. It's a conflict of interest that the court refuses to recognize. In fact, our judges have refused to tell lawyers that two of their opinion writers may, in fact, be working on the side for an attorney who is up against them.

When County Council sought information about payments from the Controller, President Judge Stephen Baratta fired off a condescending missive, telling Council to mind its own business and that it has no authority to set salaries. It was a misstatement of the law, a point confirmed by Council Solicitor Phil Lauer.

This issue is not going away. In fact, it's been placed on the front burner, thanks to a motion filed yesterday by DA John Morganelli. It involves a homicide case against a heroin dealer accused of delivering a fatal overdose in Forks Township.

According to this motion, Morganelli was forced to ask the entire Northampton County bench to recuse itself because there were "a number of contacts and communications between the defendant's family and at least two judges."

Think about that for a moment. We're not talking about some incidental contact with a judge at the food store. The DA has referred to a number of contacts between the defendant's family and at least two judges.

What were these judges thinking? Seriously. I doubt they were discussing the weather. A third judge, Jennifer Sletvold, was Phil Lauer's law partner. He represents the defendant. So she's out, too.

As a result of Morganelli's motion, a senior judge from Philly, John Braxton, was brought in to hear the case. But that presented another problem because his law clerk, Catherine Kollet, is a criminal defense attorney who practices in Northampton County and is in fact a court-appointed lawyer who represents indigent defendants when there is a conflict with the Public Defender's Office. Since she represents criminal defendants and was appointed by a court that has already recused itself, Morganelli argues it would be impossible for her to act as a "neutral, judicial law clerk."

Braxton refused to remove her, claiming she is his clerk, and has worked for him in other counties.

He then reduced Fisher's bail from $500,000 to $100,000, even though evidence in a prior drug delivery case shows that he failed to comply with bail conditions. Fisher was unleashed on the public the very next day.

Morganelli did some research and discovered that Kollet's participation as a judicial law clerk is a direct violation of a Supreme Court Rule that bans lawyers from being law  clerks in the counties where they practice. Even more disturbing, Braxton's statement that Kollet works for him in other counties is demonstrably false, according to Morganelli.

So let's sum up. The entire Northampton County bench has been forced to recuse itself in a homicide case because two judges were unable to keep their mouths shut when approached by the defendant's family. Then a clerk is brought into the case who actively practices criminal law in the very county where she is advising the court in a criminal matter. Senior Judge Braxton refuses to disqualify her, even though a Supreme Court rule specifically bars law clerks from practicing law in the county where they clerk. He also states falsely that Kollet is his clerk in other counties. Then he unleashes a heroin dealer accused of delivering a fatal overdose on an unsuspecting public in the middle of an epidemic.

Nobody is above the law. Not overpaid law clerks. Not judges who engage in ex parte conversations with the family of an accused killer. Not a Senior Judge from Philly who thumbs his nose at a Supreme Court rule regarding the use of law clerks, and compounds that error with misrepresentations about using that clerk in other counties.

Morganelli, who is not above the law,  had a duty to file this motion. He is reacting to a failure in a system that is supposed to deliver justice.

Charlie Dent and Fed Ed Secretly Wed

US Congressman Charlie Dent and embattled Allentown Mayor Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski were secretly wed last night in a ceremony at the Islamic Community Center in Whitehall.

"It feels good to be out of the closet at long last,"said Dent as he and Fed Ed cut the wedding cake. Then he kissed me.

"I just want a few moments of happiness before I go away," explained Fed Ed. "I hope you check out our registry."

After a weekend in New Hope, both will be returning to their jobs.

The wedding was attended by a few close friends and about 40 FBI agents. Pope Francis officiated. "They look so good together," he remarked as he sampled hummus and baba ganoush at the Islamic Center.

Should Smoking Be Banned Outside the BTCC (Community Center)?

Bethlehem Township's Community Center is a fitness facility that includes numerous types of aerobic equipment, an indoor track, exercise machines, free weights and a natatorium. In addition to the adult use, children make extensive use of the indoor basketball courts. But when they walk in or out, they often must go past smokers right outside the entrance. Assistant Director of Public Works Richard Kanaskie, in a memo to Commissioners, complained that "this creates a very unpleasant environment for people entering or exiting the building."

At their November 21 meeting, Tom Nolan suggested that the Township ban smoking within 30' of the community center and outdoor pool. Mike Hudak agreed, but suggested that a designated smoking area and receptacle be set aside for members who do smoke.  

"I think it's ironic that people go to exercise at the community center,and have to puff away," said Nolan.

Manager Melissa Shafer stated that she would reach out to Jackie Gilligan at the Community Center, and establish a policy proposal for action by Commissioners.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Washington's Crossing

When Julius Caesar marched his legions across the Rubicon, he reportedly said, "Let the dice fly high." But he was not gambling. There could only be one outcome. Another military leader who marched his tattered troops across the Delaware in the middle of a Nor'easter on Christmas Day in 1776 really was gambling. Of course, I'm speaking of George Washington, our first and perhaps our greatest President.

He commanded what was left of the US Armed Forces after their humiliation by the British in New York. Using Durham boats made at the southern tip of the county, he took 2,400 men across the icy river, along with 18 cannons and about 50 horses. "Victory or death" was his password to this covert operation against a Hessian stronghold in Trenton. Though they were tipped off, they never dreamed of an attack in the middle of a snowstorm.

It was a daring raid, followed by another at Princeton in relief of a stranded American unit.

It's easy to let the dice fly high when you know no one can beat you. But only a real badass attacks right after his army has been decimated.

Washington lost nearly every battle in which he commanded, but he won the war. He was able to keep that army together at a time when some soldiers were nearly naked and had no food. An aristocratic planter who originally disdained his troops, he grew to love them, and suffered every hardship they endured.

When he ultimately surrendered his commission after eight and a half years, he told his troops he could not go to each of them, but they could come to him and "take my hand." The supposedly aloof general broke down in tears as soldier after soldier came up to hug and even kiss him.

The slave owner who allowed more integration in his army than anyone else until the Vietnam war would go on to set his slaves free in his will, and set aside monetary provisions so each family could have a start.

Only a few other slave owners followed this example.

On Friday, I visited Washington Crossing, about an hour from Easton. On December 11and again on December 25, there will be re-enactments of the crossing.

PPL Proposes Laydown Yard on Farmersville Road

PPL wants to convert existing farmland on Farmersville Road, located between Lehigh River and Freemansburg Avenue, into what is called a laydown yard. That's where the electric utility would store utility poles, transformers, wires and vehicles from which it could respond promptly when emergency repairs are needed as a result of an accident or major storm. There are no laydown yards in the Bethlehem Township area.

Because utilities are exempt from zoning laws, this matter will go through the Public Utility Commission. Otherwise, the Zoning Hearing Board would have to decide whether to grant a variance to allow a laydown yard use in an area zoned for agriculture.

In his report to Commissioners, Jones notes that this will enhance the reliability of electrical service in the area. But he adds that this comes at the cost of increased truck traffic, will increase the amount of impervious surface and will create an intense use right along the picturesque Lehigh River bike path. This is arguably one of the most beautiful spots in the Lehigh Valley.

TOA's Green Pond Marsh Meeting on November 28

Though Traditions of America's proposed active senior community at Green Pond is still in administrative review, Bethlehem Township Planning Director Nathan Jones reports that the Planning Commission has been asked to review and comment on the developer's stormwater proposals at the site. They will do so at their November 28 meeting.

Should Cunningham Have Taken Paid Appointment to Chinese Board?

Making the world better through plastic. 
Don Cunningham is CEO at Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corp. According to the company's 2014 nonprofit tax return, Cunningham's salary was $138,000. In that year, $2.3 of its $4.4 million in revenue came in the form of government grants. These include hotel taxes from Lehigh and Northampton County. LVEDC also administers a host of other government grants, like a $3.4 million sustainability grant awarded in 2011. It is, for all practical purposes, a public agency. So is it proper for Cunningham to accept $30,000 from some Chinese plastics company that he helped lure to the Lehigh Valley?

Interestingly, this news did not come from Cunningham or LVEDC. He was perfectly content to keep us in the dark. We only know because of a required disclosure from the Chinese company.

It's sad that disclosures from private foreign companies provide more transparency than a publicly funded agency.

Cunningham and LVED' lawyer deny there's any conflict of interest

I disagree. I like Don and believe he has done an excellent job at LVEDC. But quite obviously, his role there gives him all kinds of inside information about the community that is invaluable in the private sector. He can clue them in on major infrastructure projects, grant opportunities and taxing trends. It's totally improper for him to use his inside knowledge to benefit a Chinese company. But that's what he is being tempted to do.

That's the way things happen in China. It's not supposed to be the way they happen here, except for Allentown. The LVEDC Board should stop this.

Updated 11/23/16, 10:25 am:  When I published this story, I included a link to The Morning Call story in which it first appeared.  As another blogger who pays undue attention to who gets credit for what has observed, I did not break this story. I published this story because this is not a grey area of the law, as the article suggests. You either break the Ethics Act or you don't. What Cunningham did is completely legal. It's also completely wrong.

Three Members of Electoral College from NorCo

Northampton County, which turned from blue to red this election cycle, was regarded as a bellwether by the Trump campaign.  Local party boss Lee Snover had sign parties, weekly flash mobs and had 200 volunteers at the polls on election day. In the meantime, the Pennsylvania Democratic Party sent letters directing voters to the wrong polls.  

On December 19, the 20-member delegation of Pennsylvania's Electoral College will meet in Harrisburg to cast their votes for President Trump. Three of them  - Mary Barket, Lee Snover and Peg Ferraro - will be from Northampton County.

Some have suggested that the Electoral College can be persuaded to vote for Hillary.

Dream on.

I've also heard that the Electoral College is a relic of our racist past and should be discarded. Without question, it gives added weight to many smaller states, just like the Senate. But its primary goal is to prevent a tyranny of the majority. We are a democratic republic, not a mobocracy.  

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Opinions Online Temporarily Suspended

Opinions Online has been a regular Saturday feature run through Emailmeform. That is a site that hosts anonymous comments. I received no comments the past two weeks. I figured everyone was opinioned out as a result of the elections. But I learned on Saturday that the feature is no longer working. This is because Blogger recently converted from http to https. There is a fix, but it costs more than I am willing to pay. So Opinions Online is suspended until I find another host that is free and accepts anonymous comments. If you know of one, feel free to post a link in the comments.

Friday, November 18, 2016

PSP Cite Constable cRaZy Over Pre-Election Trump Signs

Tricia Mezzacappa got herself elected Constable in West Easton last year after getting ten write-in votes. She's taken this new role very seriously, too. She went out and bought a constable costume and handcuffs, offered her services to West Easton, contacted several places to act as storage facilities for towed vehicles and then began harassing West Easton residents with written "warnings" over ordinance violations like cars parked too long in one place or radios being played too loudly. She claims she can arrest people for "breach of the peace," too, so watch out!

She's also a rabid Trump supporter. On Election Eve, she plastered West Easton with Trump signs. She was even spotted using a ladder to make it difficult to remove these signs from telephone poles. In her enthusiasm for The Donald, she got carried away and began placing Trump over street signs about parking and snow emergency routes.

Since West Easton has no police force and she's the only constable in town, she no doubt thought she was home free.

Enter the Pennsylvania State Police. Though they ignore local ordinances, they do enforce the Vehicle Code, and cited her for littering on November 7.

It's no secret that I have little regard for Donald Trump. Even less for Tricia "Constable cRaZy" Mezzacappa. But this charge bothers me. She was engaged in pure political speech, on the eve of an election. So any accusation of criminal behavior, even as a summary offense, should be carefully reviewed.

Here's the statute that Mezzacappa is alleged to have violated.
"No person shall throw or deposit, upon any highway, or upon any other public or private property without the consent of the owner thereof or into or on the waters of this Commonwealth from a vehicle, any waste paper, sweepings, ashes, household waste, glass, metal, refuse or rubbish, or any dangerous or detrimental substance."
If she was seen throwing tape or waste paper on the street or on someone else's property, that's littering. But it's a stretch to conclude that a Trump sign is "waste paper, sweepings, ashes, household waste, glass, metal, refuse or rubbish, or any dangerous or detrimental substance."

This is one of the charges that Cupcake Trachta brought against the execrable Sticker Gang, who decorated Nazareth with tiny "FT (Fire Trachta)" stickers two summers ago. Everyone thought it was funny but the Chief of Police. Attorneys Gary Asteak, Phil Lauer and Mark Minotti successfully argued those stickers were not waste paper or rubbish, but pure political speech. That same argument applies even more in the context of a Trump sign that was put in place the day before a presidential election.

I have not seen the citation so am unaware of the factual circumstances. But if it is purely over her ill-considered placement of Trump signs, that's free speech. I'd agree that she should not mar road signs, but the PSP charged her with littering.

Ironically, Mezzacappa was a vicious critic of the sticker gang and wanted them all beheaded. But their willingness to stand up for their rights might now benefit her because free speech is her right, too.

Allen: A "Reality TV Election"

Acting Administrator Cathy Allen. John Brrown (right)
and John Cusick (left) in background. 
Acting Administrator Cathy Allen updated NorCo Council last night on the November 8 election,calling it a "crazy, crazy day for all of us." She credited poll workers, the staff in the elections office and county employees from other departments who pitch in and help for a day. Though she acknowledged mistakes along the way, she was generally pleased with how things went. Here are a few observations:
  • Voting Registrar Dee Rumsey received 6,608 absentee ballots, a record for Northampton County.
  • One Bethlehem precinct was unable to deliver its returns until 1 am.
  • In some precincts, "people were waiting for hours" to vote.
  • EMS responded to six reports of medical emergencies at the polls.
  • There were five motor vehicle accidents at the polls.
  • Traffic had to be restricted at polling locations in Lower Mount Bethel and Moore Townships.
  • The provisional ballots have been examined.
In my precinct, turnout was 75.68%, but nobody waited more than 40 minutes to vote and that was only in the first hour. Let me explain why. I positioned myself to greet voters as they came in the door, and made sure they went where they belonged. This is because, prior to the election, the Constable in Hanover had the foresight to get maps of each of the five polling precincts. If someone was at the wrong place, we found out quickly and sent them to the right place. These maps should be in place at every municipality with more than one precinct. They are a big help.

The biggest help is knowing that the elections office and machine technicians are just a phone call away. They have helped numerous voters who get confused about where they need to vote.

Yes, NorCo Has a Mental Health Hotline

IRES Director Gary Rushman
... and it's not my cell phone.

When someone calls Northampton County's Human Services for help, what happens? Gary Rushman, who heads the county's Information and Referral Emergency Services (IRES) Division answered that question at a Council meeting last night. His group of seven full-time and 11 part-time caseworkers connects county residents with services that include Mental Health, Early Intervention and Developmental Programs, Drug and Alcohol, Children and Youth, Area Agency on Aging and other community services. His group decides whether an emergency assessment is needed, which does happen when there are serious allegations of child abuse or neglect or when older adults find themselves in emergency situations.

The phone number is 610 559-3270. The 24 hour emergency services office phone number is 610 252-9060.

Northampton County's Emergency Services is a 24/7 crisis intervention unit licensed by the state to provide mental health crisis services,process involuntary commitments and to handle all situations that might fall "between the crack" of other agencies. they could include emergency shelter requests, short term case management or coordination of community resources.

This year, IRES is on track to field 10,546 regular calls and 11,580 emergencies.

The largest number of calls are the result of new laws requiring reports for possible child abuse or neglect. In 2015,there were 5,67 referrals concerning children. This year, there are 5,319 with 6 weeks left until the end of the year.

Since 2009, there have been an average of 4745 requests for involuntary commitment, under which a person can be hospitalized for 120 hours at a community hospital if a doctor determines that he is dangerous to himself or others.

According to Rushman, involuntary commitments are "way up this year." He believes this is the result of a large geriatric population with significant mental health issues.

2016 NorCo Citizen Academy - 21 Graduates

Northampton County Council conducted a ceremony immediately before last night's meeting for its fifth Citizen Academy graduating class, which included 21 participants. Each got a certificate signed by Executive John Brown, Council President John Cusick and President Judge Stephen Baratta. So far, 97 people have completed the course, including two members and some employees.

Among last night's graduates was lovely Adriana Santos, who I first met at an Upper Nazareth Township Supervisors' meeting several months ago. She has a deep interest in local government.

Another participant is Jeff Fox, who I met last year when Hayden Phillips ran against Steve Barron for Controller.

Initially, the opaque Brown administration was going to refuse to give me a list of the graduates because it did not have releases signed by everyone. But as I pointed out, once they are brought into a Council meeting and their names are announced, their identity is public information. So I got the list, but my camera died.

The other graduates are Alan Bagen, Marie Boltz, Barbara Ann Dreisbach, John Ferguson, Thomas Foster, Jane Hill-Rosato, Robert Jackson, Mary Jane McAteer, Stacy Michaylira, Rita Morey, Anthony Morris, Diane Richards, Linda Ruggiero, Raveena Shergill, Philomena Talese, Donna Thorman and Sonia Thorman.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Nazareth Police Officer Delivers Election Day Baby

Nazareth Police Officer Stephen Schleig is the cop who was constantly belittled by Nazareth officials in an attempt to get him to quit, even to the point of refusing to replace a worn bicycle uniform for months. Instead of quitting, Schleig sued. He hung in there, saving the life of a 54 year-old Nazareth man who went into cardiac arrest on a cold February morning. Now he's helped bring a new life into the world.

On Election Day, as I was making my way in darkness to set up my polling place, Steve was busy on a mission of his own. "I was blessed to be at the right place at the right time where I was needed the most," said Schleig on his Facebook page. He was delivering a baby. "I love being a policeman! Happy Birthday Baby Callie W. who was born at 0650 hours weighing at 6 lbs 15oz. and 20 inches long on the bathroom floor of her home."

The previous night, the expecting mother had left work and went to Lehigh Valley Hospital (Cedar Crest). Though her contractions were just three minutes apart and she was bleeding, her doctor said she would not deliver for several more days. But the baby felt differently, as Mom discovered soon after she returned home.

Steve is one amazing guy. Though he looks like an NFL lineman, Schleig is a gentle and humble soul who even dislikes the use of profanity. Naturally, he refuses to take credit. "It begins with the first call from our guardian angels who watch over all of us (911 dispatchers) who then help direct me and others (Nazareth EMS) where to go and who is in need of our HELP," he said on his Facebook page. "It truly is a team or FAMILY effort. I'm just glad I was able to help people who needed me the most in their darkest hour."

"He did a good job," said Mom's best friend, Michele Howey.

Mom needs a doctor's note for work, and Dr. Schleig will have to provide it.

Not a peep from the Nazareth Borough Police Facebook page.

Schleig is also President of the Nazareth Borough Police Association. That's the union for full-time officers. That organization conducts an annual essay contest for seniors at local high schools. The winner gets a $500 cash prize. These cops also perform what they call "random acts of kindness" for people in need.

As a Nazareth resident with lots of enemies, it's re-assuring to know that Officer Schleig is there. I'm getting sick and tired of daily visits from Coroner Zach Lysek.

"Just checking," he says.