Friday, April 18, 2014

Why You Don't Elect Row Officers

Lamont McClure and Ken Kraft, who want elected row offices for the patronage jobs that will be created in those little fiefdoms, need to read about Schuylkill County.

State House: Beyer Wins Ballot Challenge

Michael Beyer, son of former State Representative Karen Beyer, will be on the Democratic ballot for the seat his mother held as a Republican four years ago. Beyer has survived a three-pronged nomination challenge attacking nomination petitions, residency and his claim to be a lawyer. In a ruling issued this morning, Judge Renee Cohn Jubelirer rejected the challenge.

David and Linda Eisenhauer, two Democrats who live in the District, filed the challenge. Representing them is Attorney Matt Crosslis, who until recently was Lehigh County Executive, and has vowed to appeal.

Originally, Crosslis' petition argued that petitions were being signed by circulators who did not actually circulate them. He also argued that Beyer was a Pittsburgh resident. But he withdrew those two challenges, leaving him only with the claim that Beyer, a recent law school grad, had somehow misrepresented himself.

Give me a break.

Once Crosslis realized he was unable to mount a successful circulation challenge, this case was pretty much toast. An appeal is a waste of money.

Since no one else is running on the Democratic side, this assures Beyer's nomination.

In the Fall, he'll face incumbent Justin Simmons, the man who beat Beyer's mother four years ago, and the man who will very likely beat him.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Dolan Does Some Damage Control

After resigning from her Executive Director position at the Illick's Mill, under a cloud of suspicion based upon her own mismanagement and conflicts of interest, Bethlehem City Council member Karen Dolan is doing a bit of damage control. She has told The Express Times' Lynn Olanoff that she's merely trying to save her poor little nonprofit from the vicious world of politics. Of course, I'm in the center of this dark world, as Dolan paints it in version #694 of what has happened.

Here's my response.

This has nothing to do with politics. This has everything to do with expecting elected officials to be loyal to the people instead of whoever pays their salary. The organization has been hurt, not by stories on my blog, but by Dolan's own unethical behavior and mismanagement of the nonprofit.

This is a woman who has told several stories now about what is going on. Let's deal with facts. 1) She failed to file nonprofit tax returns for three years in a row. 2) Her nonprofit status was revoked for at least a year. 3) Her vote on last year's budget was in violation of the Ethics Act because she voted on a matter in which she had a direct financial interest as a paid Executive Director. 4) She continued raising money after her nonprofit status was revoked and gave a misleading interview to The Express Times, falsely claiming to be a nonprofit. 5. She violated the Ethics Act again as recently as last Friday, when she threatened the Mayor concerning a new lease. "I will do everything I can to prevent this lease from going to Council."

Incidentally, her threat to the Mayor, in addition to being a conflict of interest under the Ethics Act, is also an example of exactly how she plays politics.

I find it totally incredible that City officials would send her a letter in 2010 about her unpaid $127,000 debt, threatening to suspend services, and then say nothing more about the situation. That is just unbelievable. She obviously had conversations. What were those conversations? Did the Mayor let her off the hook? If so, why? Who made the decision to write off the debt? Who made the decision to begin supplying her free heating oil? Why was that decision made? Why did she suddenly start advocating for wage hikes in Parks?

The best thing Dolan could do for the public now is to resign. She has abused her office. The people of Bethlehem deserve better than someone who plays petty games to advance causes in which she has an interest.

Updated 9:45 pm: In the Express Times story,  Dolan claims that it makes no difference whether booze is permitted in City parks, as she advocated at a recent meeting, because the Illick's Mill has a liquor license.
Reader Hank_Hill, however, has discovered the license is listed as "inactive" by the state liquor control board. Nonprofits can obtain a "special occasion permit", which is what Illick's Mill has, but it can only be used six times per year. According to the Illick's Mill webpage, it hosts 20 weddings and 100 other social events a year. It would seem that, even if the license were active, the number of weddings hosted are more than what the law allows.


Harp Resigns as NorCo Director of Administration

I had predicted that Northampton County Director Tom Harp would be canned on March 15, right around the time that the Centralized Human Services building was dedicated.

"Beware the Ides of March!" I would warn him.

But he lasted a little longer. He is resigning, effective May 2. In a letter to Executive John Brown, Harp states, "I was pleased to be able to complete the very important Human Services Building project, and to see that facility become fully operational."

In a memo to Council, Brown praises Harp. "He has done an excellent job with the Human Services building and managing the closure of the Bechtel and Wolf facilities. His support and guidance will be missed."

Harp is an avid baseball fan and is resigning in time to watch his grandson play.

Three Bethlehem City Council Members Uninterested in Liberty Lockdown

Yesterday, there was quite a stir about the four-hour lockdown at Liberty High School, which was prompted by a 911 call that three armed men had been seen entering the building. Fortunately, the matter turned out to be an elaborate hoax, but was one that upset even the parents of students at nearby schools. Mayor Bob Donchez, whose father was a detective, asked Police Chief Mark DiLuzio and Fire Chief Robert Novotnack to brief Council at last night's scheduled meeting. And most of them were quite interested. Council member Adam Waldron, for example, is married to a Liberty High School teacher. But while the Chiefs explained exactly what happened, three Council members were more busy carrying on private conversations behind the dais than in listening to what was said, to the point where it was actually difficult to hear the persons who had the floor. 

Let me tell you what the Chiefs said. Forty police officers, firefighters and EMS personnel responded to the lockdown,  along with the FBI, in accordance with a national protocol established for these scares. While they searched the building, two additional hoax calls were received.

During the lockdown, three people required medical assistance. One was a diabetic. Another suffered heat exhaustion. The third was a local resident who just walked up and requested assistance.

"It ended the way it should have," noted Chief DiLuzio. Mayor Donchez was happy with the "level of cooperation between the City and school district."

While this was going on, Karen Dolan was carrying on a loud whispered conversation with fellow Council member Bryan Callahan, making it difficult to hear.  No sooner were Dolan and Callahan done than President J. Willie Reynolds was involved in another loud whispered exchange with a substitute City Clerk. Whatever they were discussing, it should have waited until the persons who had the floor were done. Their conduct was both insensitive and rude, and may have violated the Sunshine Act.

So much for a civil Council.

Antalics Wants Grand Jury To Probe Dolan Nonprofit

Citizen activist Steve Antalics is calling for a Grand Jury investigation into the mismanagement of the Fox Environmental Center (Illick's Mill) under the stewardship of City Council member Karen Dolan.

Antalics has uncovered a 2010 letter from Parks and Public Works Director Ralph Carp to Dolan, concerning the Mill's $127,000 debt. In this letter, Carp states the City would be providing no further services until that debt was settled.

What happened?

What changed between 2010, when the City wanted its money, and 2013, when the City was providing all utilities, even heating oil? Were promises made?

Antalics believes the only way that all the layers of this onion can be peeled is through the subpoena power of a Grand Jury, and intends to ask District Attorney John Morganelli to investigate. Whether he does so is another matter.

City Council members sat there, like deer caught in the headlights. Council member Karen Dolan, who was accompanied to Council by her husband, had nothing to say.

Morganelli to Convene New Grand Jury

DA John Morganelli
Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli is convening a new Grand Jury, starting April 24, with a continued focus on unsolved homicides and official corruption. Morganelli said this new panel will work under the supervision of Judge Michael Koury. The chief prosecuting attorney will be Assistant DA Bill Blake.

The previous Grand Jury, first empaneled on March 29, 2012, worked on 30 different investigations during its two-year life span. "This, by far, was the most work done by grand juries that I have empaneled as District Attorney," he noted. He filed a termination report on April 16, at the same time he announced his intention to form a new Grand Jury.

Grand juries fell out of favor during the '60s, according to Morganelli, when rules were relaxed to allow prosecutors to file charges independently, without these charging bodies, through what is known as a criminal information.

But grand juries remain important, insists Morganelli.

"The Grand Jury represents one of the oldest tools utilized by prosecutors to investigate matters of public concern. As everyone knows, the Grand Jury has the power to compel testimony, offer immunity and obtain any and all records without probable cause."

The 1999-2000 Grand Jury

Morganelli was unable to convene a Grand Jury during his fist seven years in office, he explained, because he needed more full-time staff. Finally, in 1999, he had enough staff to justify a Grand Jury for unsolved homicides. That resulted in the successful prosecution of James McBride, who is serving a life sentence for the 1984 murder of his wife. It also resulted in a second-degree murder conviction of Joseph Strohl for the 1986 beating death of his North Catasauqua. The Grand Jury helped prosecutor Bob Eyer, now the Chief Public Defender, build a circumstantial case.

The 2010 Grand Jury

A second Grand Jury, convened in 2010, heard evidence in 14 different investigations, and solved three more old homicides. It focused a great deal of its work on the 1979 murder of Holly Branagan, a Freedom High School Senior who was found stabbed to death in her Bethlehem home. Thirty-one witnesses testified. Morganelli is hopeful that Bethlehem police may have sufficient evidence to file charges in the future, but the case is still open.

That Grand Jury also expanded its scope beyond homicide and into more complicated, white collar crimes. Its work resulted in the successful prosecution of the principals of Municipal Energy Managers, who bilked Bethlehem Township out of $832,000 in a streetlight scam.

The 2012 Grand Jury

This Grand Jury investigated the following matters:
  • Conspiracy to Commit Homicide charges against Franklin Barndt for the 2009 killing of Miguel Aponte at the Easton Cafe.
  • The successful prosecution of former Assistant Chief Public Defender Anthony Martino, who stole in excess of $200,000 from private clients.
  • The successful prosecution of Shawnta Carmon, who conned philanthropist Linnie Fowler out of more than $1 million.
  • Theft charges against investment advisor Richard Freer, who is accused of bilking clients out of more than $10 million. 
  • Nonprofit mismanagement at the National Museum of Industrial History, with finding forwarded to the state Attorney General.  

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

D'Isidore Out at Northampton County

Director of Court Services Archie D'Isidore is the latest Stoffa cabinet member to get the ax from Brown. As far as I'm concerned, this guy was Stoffa's weakest cabinet member. He's also responsible for the two Stoffa decisions I consider his worst in eight years as Executive

It is D'Isidore who conducting some goofy Internet investigation of two County workers who were exchanging naughty emails. They were both canned, but were thankfully re-instated when the County came to its senses.

It is also D'Isidore who advocated for a former Secretary in the Solicitor's Office to replace the Register of Wills. A person who knows nothing about estates was selected over a 12-year Deputy.

Bethlehem Has 90 Pages of Documents Detailing Dolan's Nonprofit Debt

Steve Antalics
I arrived early yesterday for Bethlehem City Council's Finance Committee. I went there because I thought that maybe the same Council members trying to save $5,000 here and $4,000 there, might have some questions about what the hell happened to the $127,000 that the City fronted fellow Council member Karen Dolan for Illick's Mill. But the meeting, and it was a long one, nearly ended without a peep from any of them about just what happened.

Maybe they thought it would be a violation of their so-called rules of civility to look out for the taxpayer.

They almost got away, but just as the meeting was about to end, an old bastard stood up and began asking questions.

That bastard is Steve Antalics, who has been on something of a quest to learn just ho Dolan was able to get $127,000 for her Mill from the City without so much as a Thank You note. Antalics has also raised questions about unpaid utilities and free heating oil.

"It looks like the money disappeared and no one seems to know," Antalics said. "This is our money. We want to know what happened to our money."

"Anyone care to answer that?"

Antalics was answered with uncomfortable silence, after which Bryan Callahan suggested that they just don't know what happened themselves.

That's why they're there. After pushing a meaningless hiring freeze to save money, six Council members (Dolan was absent) showed an amazing lack of will to look into what one of their own was doing.

Then Mayor Bob Donchez, who was at the meeting, answered Antalics, noting that the administration had just sent City Council 90 pages of documents detailing unpaid invoices accumulated by Dolan during her tenure at Fox Environmental Center.

In addition to failing to file tax returns, Dolan was also ignoring City bills.

That explains the $127,000

After the meeting, I learned that most of these invoices were for capital improvements that the City fronted for Dolan. She was supposed to pay from grants that were restricted for that purpose, but spent the money on other needs. The City decided to write off the balance due because the improvements increased the value of a building owned by Bethlehem Authority.

I don't accept that reason because most of the money fronted by the City came from borrowed money. This means the taxpayers could have spent as much as twice the amount of money spent on improvements. That is money that could have been used to help residents, pay cops or plow roads. Instead it was sunk into a building without a vote by Council.

Last week, in addition to sending a new lease for the Fox Environmental Center (Illick's Mill), Mayor Donchez asked to be paid for $8,000 in utilities fronted by the City.

Dolan, on Friday, sent Donchez an email vowing to close the Mill and "vacate the premises immediately." Later, she sent another missive. "I will do everything I can to prevent this lease from going to Council",she threatened.

Last night, right before the Finance Committee met, Dolan resigned as Executive Director at Fox Environmental. She still needs to resign from Council.

Corrected 8:16 am to indicate they are 90 pages of documents, not just invoices.

Bethlehem City Council Advances Meaningless Hiring Freeze

Last night, Bethlehem City Council's Finance Committee voted 2-1 to advance a meaningless hiring freeze to the full Council for a vote in May. It won't make a damn bit of difference to City finances, but that's not the point. In future campaigns, Mike Recchiuti and Bryan Callahan will be able to pretend they are fiscal conservatives who drew the line and crap like that. But other than the political gain, there's no point.

Earlier that night, Director of Community and Economic Development Director Alicia Karner wanted staffing in her department increased by one or two people to handle the workload that will come with the CRIZ. David Brong found a way to make it budget neutral. But Callahan and Recchiuti voted No because the City is in dire financial straights. Eric Evan countered the best way to change that is by increasing revenue with the CRIZ, but their minds were made up.

Amazingly, right after refusing to listen to some pretty powerful arguments for CRIZ staffing, which the City agreed to provide in its application to the state, Callahan claimed City Council would listen to administration pitches for hiring staff.

"I don't think we're going to be hard of hearing," he said, right after listening to the administration point out that these jobs are needed for what is expected to be $538 million in development.

He sounds deaf to me.

As for the hiring freeze, about half the City's workforce is exempt. It doesn't cover fire, police or EMS. They will also make sure it doesn't affect seasonal employees. When all the exemptions are considered, it might affect three positions for two months, a point noted by nonvoting member Adam Waldron.

"It's more like a chill," he observed.

So then what's the point?

Aside from the question whether Council has the right to stick its nose into day-to-day administrative affairs, Business Administrator David Brong told them it simply won't work. Other things will, he noted, like consolidations within departments, the increased use of technology and elimination of non-core functions.

"A Council-imposed hiring freeze takes the reins of leadership away from those who run the City," Brong argued. "Abandon this hiring freeze and let us do our jobs."

Brong called it an "irritant" and "token effort."

"How much mileage are we really going to get out of this?" he asked.

That depends on whether you are interested in government or politics.

Molovinsky Speaks to Sam Bennett

Newspapers generally shy away from coverage of political races especially when they're three years away. Besides, in urban growth regimes like Allentown, democracy is pretty much dead. But Allentown blogger Michael Molovinsky, who prefers opinion pieces, did a fairly balanced interview with possible Allentown mayoral candidate Siobhan Sam Bennett yesterday. He even took notes.

It's very well done, and I recommend anyone from Allentown to give it a read.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Dolan on Thin Ice With Ethics Act

In recent posts, I've told you about Bethlehem City Council member Karen Dolan. She has used the authority of her public office, as well as confidential information received through her holding public office, to benefit a nonprofit at which she's the paid Executive Director. That, according to the state Ethics Act, is a conflict of interest. But it's an admonition she has repeatedly ignored. According to informed sources, she did precisely what the law condemns this past weekend, in an email to the Mayor. She threatened to prevent Council from reviewing a proposed lease for the Illick's Mill. One that would actually require her to pay utilities and rent. Let me tell you the story.

Dolan, a City Council member since 2006, is the paid Executive Director of what is known as the Gertrude B. Fox Environmental Center. That's a nonprofit known to most of us as Illick's Mill. She failed to file nonprofit tax returns (990s) for three years in a row, which ultimately resulted in the revocation of her nonprofit status with the IRS. While working to get it back, she continued accepting grants and public assistance. While her status was revoked, she gave a misleading interview to The Express Times. She touted a $170,000 budget and announced wedding receptions at the site.

Most of her old board members abandoned ship. The ones she has now were not around when the 501c3 status was pulled.

At a recent Parks Committee meeting, where she conveniently happens to be the Chair, she advocated easing up on booze restrictions in City parks, where Illick's Mill hosts wedding receptions. That's an ethical conflict, though she countered that all nonprofits in City parks would benefit.

In the meantime, questions have begun to arise. Why is there no recent record of Illick's Mill paying any utilities? Why did the City suddenly start providing her with free heating oil? Why does she pay no rent? Why was the $127,000 owed to the City just "written off", according to an independent audit of City finances.

When I met with her in February, she told me she had a valid lease and was paying utilities. That was untrue. I have learned recently that she stopped paying utilities several years ago, in 2011, or perhaps even earlier. She has told others that utilities are not being paid until there's a new lease.

As Right to Know requests have descended upon Bethlehem like a plague of locusts, the City decided it's time for a new lease at Illick's Mill. It was on the agenda for Wednesday night's City Council meeting, and you can see it yourself under "back up documents." (Sublease Agreement Illicks Mill).

This proposed lease is pretty much like the old lease, with two major exceptions. This one calls for monthly rent of $300 and requires the nonprofit to pay for utilities.

Even heating oil.

Dolan, who really should have no public role in the finances of an entity that pays her a salary, nevertheless had to weigh in.

Over the weekend, she sent several emails to the Mayor, in which she specifically stated she would prevent the lease from being considered by Council.

Quite clearly, she is in violation of the Ethics Act.

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

As recently as this weekend, Dolan was using the authority of her public office and confidential information she obtained by virtue of her public office, to threaten to keep the proposed lease from Council.

Dolan is now telling The Express Times that she met with the Mayor concerning a lease earlier this year. That's a violation of the Ethics Act.  She acknowledges that she somehow talked former Mayor John Callahan into waiving utilities completely and to even start supplying heating oil. Of course, that's her third story now. She told me she was paying utilities and told someone else she was waiting for a new lease. Now it's blame Callahan time. It's also another conflict of interest by her. Maybe Callahan was getting hounded. Or maybe there's a fourth story.

One Express Times reader sums things up quite nicely:

"So, let me get this straight. The organization for which a city councilwoman is a paid employee gets a special break on rent and utilities while taxpayers and businesses have to pay their taxes, which she has no doubt voted yes to increase? Something smells about this entire situation. Maybe she personally would be willing to pay my utilities. Sounds like a fair trade to me."

What smells is a conflict of interest.

So who cares about an Ethics Act violation? The Commission will make a ruling ten years after everyone is dead right? Wrong. Whether Dolan knows it or not, that conflict of interest provision in the Ethics Act is exactly what then Attorney General Corbett used to go after state representatives who were using state employees to run their political campaign. The Court noted three elements to the offense: " (1) the defendant was a public official;  (2) the defendant knowingly or intentionally used the authority of his or her office for private pecuniary gain;  and (3) the gain was more than de minimis."

Dolan is a public official. She is knowingly and intentionally using the authority of her office to avoid rent and utilities at a nonprofit that pays her a salary. The gain is certainly more than de minimis.

The ice beneath her is cracking.

According to a Morning Call account, Board Chair Andrew Bollinger is now speaking for Fox Environmental, not Dolan. He and the Mayor have talked. No threats. The Mayor is willing to negotiate terms, but the free ride is over. Bollinger and his Board appear to be tired of the hole Dolan is digging for them.

Someone needs to relay that message to Dolan.

This nature center should continue, thanks to the hard work of many people over the years, not just Dolan. If she cared about its mission, she'd resign. In fact she needs to leave City Council as well.

Cartwright To Host Service Academy Day in Easton

WHAT: Congressman Matt Cartwright will host Service Academy Day.  Representatives from the United States Military Academy at West Point, United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, Air Force Academy at Colorado Springs, United States Coast Guard at New London and the Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point will be on hand to provide interested high school students and their families from the 17th Congressional District, with information on the general requirements and qualifications for the nomination process.


Easton Area High School

HOW:    Event is open to press.  For interviews or additional information please contact Shane Seaver,

Monday, April 14, 2014

Brown To Hold Town Hall in Bangor

Northampton County Executive John Brown is still spending taxpayer money to make him look good. In what is hopefully the last news release from a publicly funded propaganda, Sahl Communications has announced that Brown will host a "town hall " in what should be familiar territory to him - Bangor. 

It will be on Monday, 6:30 pm, at Bangor Town Hall. The news release also describes the County as a $1 billion economic development engine. 

While I admire Brown's willingness to reach out to the public, I hate the publicly funded puff piece from a propaganda machine. But at least there were no spelling errors. 

Deputy Sheriffs Easter Egg Hunt Big Hit For 9 YOs

Elizabeth Skorochod, center, fills up her basket
Northampton County's Deputy Sheriffs conducted their annual Easter Egg hunt in Saturday at Louise Moore Park, thanks to donations from County Council, Sam's Club and Just Born. Over 200 children participated, but the 9 YOs ruled. They picked up all the eggs in their field, then moved over into a field intended for the older kids and grabbed as many as they could while their bigger brothers and sisters moaned.  

Leading the charge of the younger kids were Nicholas Zieger, brothers Cade and Jack Campbell and Gabe Kuehner (in baseball cap).

This young man easily gathered the most eggs in the two and under contest. His trick was remaining hunched over the entire time.

The Easter Bunny made a guest appearance, too, but Rice Williams wasn't too sure whether to trust a six-foot tall pooka.

It could be Jim Gregory.

Executive John Brown was there, speaking to County workers.

You can see more pictures on my Facebook Page.

DeSalva Out at Northampton County

Steve DeSalva, Director of Public Works under Northampton County Executive John Stoffa, is apparently no longer with the County. Employed with the County for over eight years, DeSalva was responsible for the completion of a controversial courthouse expansion and juvenile detention facility that had started under Glenn Reibman. He was the sole engineer employed, and was often the scapegoat for cost overruns and nightmares at the aging Wolf Building and Gracedale campus. Known for sixty-hour work weeks, nobody ever questioned his work ethic.

DeSalva was replaced as Director of Public Works by Allentown's Richard Young late last month. It was thought that he would remain as a Deputy under Young. But according to highly placed County officials, Steve is gone.I have no additional details.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Crackpot Radio

Bobby Gunther Walsh's WAEB radio show is well-known as a local conservative stronghold. For that reason alone, it is despised and loved. It is a place where Scott Ott, Glenn Eckhart, Hayden Phillips and other right wing officials can get some free advertising. Nothing wrong with that. In fact, I've listened to a few over the years, and sometimes find myself in agreement. But in recent weeks, Gunther has logged interviews with a trifecta of nutbags. People who are so far out there that they ruin whatever conservative or good government message he is trying to convey. Let me give you some of the details.

Heidi Markow. - I first saw her in action outside the Northampton County Courthouse, where she convened a news conference and pep rally to condemn a plea agreement for a wife beater. Along the way, she falsely accused Pennsylvania state troopers of indifference and inaction. As a supposed victim advocate, she substituted her own inexperienced judgment for that of professional prosecutors whose job is to achieve justice, not vengeance.

Ron Shegda. - This dude is so nutty that even the local tea party dumped him. I first became aware of him in 2006, when I saw his "Ron Shegda For Public Office" web page. He has a mentally challenged adult sister who was taken from him, and has lashed out at everyone in Northampton County, from caseworkers to John Stoffa. He also befriended other local whack jobs. When you see all the hate comments directed at Stoffa and former Human Services Director Ross Marcus, you know where some of them are coming from.

The Blog Mentor.- This fellow, whose name can't and won't be mentioned here, believes there's a massive conspiracy against him that includes bloggers, newspapers, TV stations, attorneys, the DA, judges, college professors and a Catholic priest. He actually wishes death on people.

With these three stooges, I have to ask what is wrong with Gunther. What does he have against Human Services and DA Jim Martin? Is he still bitter over his own experience?

What's truly sad is that, despite what Gunther says about being willing to listen to the other side, he knows that Human Services and the DA are unable to discuss cases that are still active. So my conclusion is that he is pursuing a vendetta of his own, just like these guests.

I'm sure it attracts lots of listeners.

But maybe he should get them on Coast to Coast. They'd fit right in with the aliens and anal probes. 

A Tale of Two Nonprofits

One of the Lehigh Valley's more worthwhile nonprofits is New Bethany Ministries, whose simple goal is "to create opportunities for a secure future for the homeless, hungry, poor and mentally ill of the Lehigh Valley." One of their biggest fundraisers is Luminaria Night. Simple votive candles, inside a white bag, light up the Christmas City each December. More importantly, the money raised helps people with nowhere else to turn. You'd think Bethlehem would go out of its way to help this worthy effort. But Bethany, unlike the Fox Environmental Center (Illick's Mill), has no City Council person at the helm.

Last December, while City Council person Karen Dolan basked in a rent-free Mill, warming up with free heating oil supplied by Parks and Public Property Director Ralph Carp, it was freezing inside the pool house a stone's throw away along Illick's Mill Road. New Bethany's Debbie Delgrosso was shoveling the snow, which the City had not done. Eventually, she got help from some people who stopped by for their luminaries.

Carp also charged New Bethany for the use of the pool house to distribute luminaries.

The difference between these two nonprofits is that one of them is run by a City Council member and one is not.

This kind of favoritism is why Dolan should resign from City Council, where she just happens to chair the Parks Committee.

Randy Miller Resigns as Chair of NorCo Police Chiefs

On April 9, former Northampton County Sheriff and Bethlehem Police Commissioner Randy Miller stepped down as Chair of the County Police Chiefs' Association. He did so after hearing that Executive John Brown refuses to work with him or any group in which he's involved. Rather than jeopardize the Police Chiefs' Association, Miller stepped down.

If what Miller heard is true, that is a bush league move. But Miller has reacted with the class and dignity he brought to his office and department.

For the past three years, I have taken great pride in leading this esteemed organization. It has been an honor and a privilege working with each and every one of you, and I feel it is my duty to explain the circumstances of my resignation. On March 14, 2014, I was contacted by a fellow chief and member who had recently met with the current Northampton County Executive, John Brown. This member informed me that Mr. Brown explicitly stated he would not work or meet with any committee that I was a part of, and if I participated in future endeavors it would compromise any involvement Mr. Brown or the county has in rectifying the current precarious situation with the Central Booking Center (CBC). As you know, I have and will continue to always put the safety of our community and fellow law enforcement members above any personal interests or opinions. If Mr. Brown feels that my presence in this association is more detrimental than the current issues that need to be resolved with the CBC, then I am willing to – albeit reluctantly – remove myself as to not hinder any future work or advancements this association is working towards. Despite his abrupt and unfounded act of removing me from the position of Northampton County Sheriff earlier this year, I will continue striving towards the utmost professionalism in all my endeavors. I would have welcomed a meeting to work with Mr. Brown as representative of this association on this issue or any other. However, it is abundantly clear that Mr. Brown does not feel the same. The Northampton County Chiefs Association may not be a county-run organization but I understand, as do all of you, cooperation and collaboration with the county and its representatives is key to our success. While I disagree with his stance, I recognize Mr. Brown as an important stakeholder in achieving this association’s goals. Unfortunately, he feels my role as part of the association will only handicap our working with the county going forward.

After 30 years in law enforcement and 15 years as an active member of this organization, this is not an easy decision for me to make, but I recognize the needs of the association and all our officers and deputies must take precedence over any personal issues.

I whole-heartedly thank you for the honor of being elected as your chairman for the past three years. I wish each and every one of you continued success in all of your endeavors and look forward to once again participating in the association if I obtain a future chief’s position in our county.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Dent Applauds Court's NCAA Ruling

My grandson: one of the last at JoePa's statue
Yesterday, a seven-judge panel of the Commonwealth Court issued a ruling in a dispute involving the Pennsylvania Senate, Penn State and the NCAA. Speaking for the Court, Judge Anne E. Covey was critical of the $60 million fine and other sanctions imposed as a result of the Jerry Sandusky child molestation scandal. The Court refused to overturn a recently enacted sate law that would require the fine to be spent on child protective services in Pennsylvania.

She blasted NCAA sanctions.

"High school athletes who had no involvement in the criminal acts were prevented from obtaining a free college education. Student-athletes, trainers, coaches and support personnel who were taught and trained to be and do their best were stopped from competing and student-athletes from other colleges and universities were also precluded from competing against them by the prohibition against post-season play. Student-athletes, trainers, coaches, administrators and support personnel who had excelled in their jobs through hard work, practice, commitment, team work, sportsmanship, excellence and perseverance were told none of that mattered."

Lehigh Valley Congressman Charlie Dent, who has previously proposed legislation that would require greater transparency and accountability from the NCAA, and has urged the restoration of all PSU scholarships, is quite pleased with the decision.

“I wholeheartedly applaud the decision by the Commonwealth Court. As I have repeatedly said, the $60 million in taxpayer money should remain in the state. All of the money – not just 25% of it – should be used to protect Pennsylvania’s children.

He calls the decision "a great step to benefit Pennsylvania’s kids. What great news!"

Along Came Jones

In February, I told you about the shitstorm that erupted in Upper Mount Bethel when Bangor School Director Toni Lynch pranced into the Mount Bethel Diner and began showing off his new cellphone, which he had programmed to play Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyres." He insisted on playing it in front of local bastard Mark Thatcher, who warned Lynch the Valkyres would soon be riding right into the toilet if he didn't knock it off. Lynch refused to let up, so Thatcher grabbed the cellphone, marched off to the can and drowned the Valkyries. 


The second Ron Angle heard something go into the toilet, he went flying in there himself. There might be sludge. He considers that black gold, even with the occasional piece of corn. Angle had some buddies fish the phone out and tried to dry it out in a bowl of rice. But the Valkyries would sing no more. They had gone on their last great ride.

Furious, Lynch marched off to the state police, who promptly charged Thatcher with murdering Lynch's cell phone.

Despite Angle's offer to speak in Thatcher's defense, he wisely pleaded guilty.

Story over, right?


Yesterday, Lynch walked into the Mount Bethel Diner with his new cell phone. He had programmed this one to play, "Along Came Jones", and insisted on playing it repeatedly to fellow School Director Dennis Jones.

Jones apparently hates those damn cell phone songs as much as Thatcher. He grabbed the phone out of Lynch's hand, and threw it against the wall.

There goes Jones.

With the phone shattered in pieces, Angle tells me he's bringing duct tape into the diner tomorrow to fix the phone for Lynch.