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Saturday, November 28, 2015

Opinions Online, 11/28/15

Blogger's Note: Opinions Online is a regular Saturday feature. If you'd like to express your opinion on any topic, click on the Opinions Online button on my left sidebar. You can also call 385-325-2564. In addition to these submissions, I am taking some comments from throughout the week and re-publishing them here. (Not much this week!)


I see that I have been permanently blocked from LVL for posting objections to posts by the West Easton Pig Lover, and postings against the ongoing Lopatcong Township and Phillipsburg NJ criminality. I remain stuckineaston, but HAVE cancelled my ET subscription and refuse to change my online name so you're "stuckwithme" now BOH!!!


Friday, November 27, 2015

Top NorCo Official Faces Foreclosure, Tax Liens

Cathy Allen
Northampton County Executive John Brown's most trusted ally and staffer is someone who came with him from Bangor - Cathy Allen. He thinks so highly of her that she was his first choice as Director of Administration, despite having only a high school education and a work history that consisted of running a two-person office in which the other person was the boss. He has involved Allen in every aspect of the County's $360 million per year operation, from Gracedale to contract negotiations. But according to records on file in the Civil Division, Allen is herself in financial hot water and is facing a mortgage foreclosure.

Council turned Brown down when he wanted to name Allen as his Director of Administration. In response, he gave Allen a secret and possibly illegal payraise from from $57,460 to $65,603, with no authority from Council. He then raised her pay even higher, to $68,554.93, because Allen was performing Human Relations functions. At this point, it's unclear whether her salary is $65,603 or $68,554.93, but it's still two to three times more than many of the County employees working under her.

In addition to these payhikes, Allen and Brown both began charging the County for travel expenses and meals. That ended when both were cited by Controller Steve Barron in 2014 for charging the County approximately $1,500 in expenses to which they were not entitled. The money was paid back, but Brown then rewarded Allen with the use of a county car.

Unknown to most at the time of her hire was that there are two federal tax liens on record against Allen, from 2008 and 2011, for a total of $57,475.00. They are indexed against Allen under the name Catherine Allen Klages, and this would not be seen by a person looking for matters filed against Catherine Allen.

In September, the state Department of Revenue also filed a lien against Allen, indexed as Allen-Klages, for $1,578.00.

When it rains, it pours.In October, the Bank of New York started foreclosure proceedings against Allen, under the name Allen-Klages, for the nonpayment of a $211,000 mortgage placed against her home in Bangor. Records show that she purchased that home in 2002 for $120,000.Between then and now, she has mortgaged the property nine times. In addition to the $211,000 mortgage, she has another open loan with Household Realty for $67,000. She owes $278,000 on a property that, according to County assessment records, is worth $201,474.00.

Allen failed to return a call seeking comment.

Hearing Scheduled For Fired Jail Supervisor

On Wednesday, I told you that Jason Rosati, a Lieutenant at the jail who was suspended without pay and ultimately fired in January for enforcing the uniform policy, is being denied his day in court. He appealed his termination to the County's Personnel Appeals Board and had a hearing in July. But since that date, no hearing has been scheduled while he has continued to go without a paycheck.

Late Wednesday, Rosati was informed he has a new hearing date on January 8.

Madame X Placed on Administrative Leave at NorCo Jail

On Monday, I told you that a former heroin user and stripper I call Madame X is working as a corrections officer at Northampton County jail.  Informed sources tell me she has been placed on administrative leave while the County investigates these allegations.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Ronca's Martin Tower Timeline Shows Demolition in 2016

In order to get an extension on an $8 million Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) grant from the state, developer Lew Ronca has been required to provide a timeline about what he expects to happen at the 53 acre site. Much of this is contained in Part 11 of the information provided by the City.

He already expected at this time to have City Council approval of a new Office Mixed Use Zoning Ordinance at the site, with which he has been intimately involved.

Once the ordinance is adopted, he plans immediately to begin engineering a master plan for the site.

In February 2016, he expects to see a Master Plan approved by the Planning Commission. It will include the demolition of Martin Tower, which will be replaced by a commercial building. Asbestos remediation will cost $5.1 million, demolition will cost $1.75 million and another $1.5 million will be spent to prepare the site for a new building. He will spend $2.375 million to prepare for a 30,000 sq ft mixed use commercial building. He will have to front the money, but will be reimbursed by the state, except for the new building. So at this point, he will have spent nothing.

The building will cost $4.1 million.

After approval of the Master Plan, he will submit a specific plan to demolish Martin Tower, and expects to have that approved by April. After that, he will seek bids for demolition, and will begin work on that in October 2016.

What else is planned? Ronca sidekick Duane Wagner discussed a possible Sheetz gas station, which could provide between $218,500 per year in tax money to fund construction costs.

I should complete my review by week's end.

Fired Jail Supervisor Still Being Denied His Day in Court

For the past two days, I've been exposing what really goes on at the NorCo jail. It makes the case of Jason Rosati, a Lieutenant with 20 years of experience in Corrections, just a little more understandable. In January, he was suspended without pay for the strangest of reasons. He was let go for insisting that the people under him follow the rules. That sounds nutz, but after having been exposed to just a slice of what goes there, I understand. Jason had the temerity to discipline a corrections officer who sauntered into work with an unbuttoned blouse and a choker necklace, both of which are contrary to uniform policy. Operations Administrator Al Crivellaro, who just happens to be the very same person who interviewed and investigated Madame X, engineered Rosati's removal early this year. Rosati is still being denied his day in court.

After being fired in late January or early February, Rosati filed a grievance with Northampton County's Personnel Appeals Board. Under Northampton County's Administrative Code and Home Rule Charter, this a five-person body established to adjudicate claims made by career service, i.e. nonunion, workers. Members are appointed by the Executive and confirmed by County Council. They include the following: Bill Alexander, himself a retired corrections officer; Dave "Lump" Sanders, owner of Bethlehem's revered Table of Knowledge at Lump's Deli; Ralph Stampone, owner of Ralph's Radiator and inspector of my now deceased Jeep; Pen Argyl's John Dally, who also sits on the Gaming Board; and Pat Siemiontkowski*, who retired recently as Northampton County's own HR Director. They are volunteers.

Though he has gone without a paycheck since his suspension in January, Rosati's case was not heard by the Personnel Appeals Board until July 14. That night, Attorney Pat Reilly established pretty convincingly that Rosati had been ambushed by a snitch brigade reporting to Deputy Administrator Cathy Allen. Rosati had disciplined one of the head snitches. Even Crivellaro admitted that this snitch let it be known throughout the jail that she has a relationship with Allen. Though he denied ever hearing her referred to as a snitch, he testified that she may believe she is protected.

According to Rosati, other supervisors are afraid of her. "She makes it known that Miss Allen supports her. They are afraid."

Attorney Reilly argued and Rosati testified that Crivellaro is afraid, too. Crivellaro, who pleaded no contest in 2010 to providing alcohol to minors, was told by Allen that he should not be working at the jail. Crivellaro denied this when he testified, but Rosati also insisted that Crivellaro had warned him to "watch your back" and that Allen had both of their personnel files.

Rosati, who admits he is a bit of a hard ass, believes his strict adherence to the rules could save the lives of officers in emergency situations.

Attorney Reilly finished his case in one night, but the County is entitled to present its side of the case, and another hearing was supposed to be scheduled for that to happen.

As of today, Rosati is still waiting for his next date in court. He is still being deprived of a paycheck.

When he wins this case, and I can't see any other resolution, the taxpayers are going to be forced to pay him for the time he spent sitting on his ass when he could have been working.

I suspect the County sees the handwriting on the wall, too, and has still refused to provide dates at which its lawyers will be available for Round Two.

I know this bothers Personnel Appeals Board members, who think they should have a designated night each month for hearings. if there are no cases, they just stay home.

Ken Kraft and Scott Parsons have repeatedly suggested to Executive Brown that this system, which actually denies justice, needs to change.

In the meantime, it appears that Rosati will go until January before his case is heard again.

*)  Siemiontkowski has been recused in this matter.

Martin Tower Developer Used NIZ Lobbyist and Heather Browne For CRIZ

Yesterday, I told you that Bethlehem has complied with a right-to-know request for all communications between developer Lewis Ronca and City employees that are related to Martin Tower. I know City officials took this matter very seriously and provided a wealth of information. Here and there, email addresses and phone numbers are redacted, but my chief concern was establishing when contacts between Ronca and the City began, and what was discussed. I believe the City demonstrated great transparency in putting this information together in an expeditious manner, and I'd be remiss if I failed to point that out and express my appreciation. It could easily remove some documents, and I'd be none the wiser, but it took the high road and gave everything, warts and all.

I want to discuss one of those warts.

On August 28, 2013, ( see Part 9). before the CRIZ was approved, Lew Ronca set up a conference call with Mayor Callahan, Senator Lidsa Boscola and Ronca's partner in Martin Tower, billionaire Norton Herrick. The purpose of this call was to engage high power lobbyists. Who better than the very lobbyists who managed to get the NIZ enacted for Allentown? So the call also included lobbyists Rocco Pugliese and Heather Browne of Pugliese Associates. It also included governmental relations specialist Daniel Robinson, who most have been on board for the ride with Pugliese. .

Heather Browne is married to State Senator Pat Browne, a ranking Senate Republican whose support would be instrumental in getting the CRIZ enacted. And he supported it.

Browne denied his wife had anything to do with the NIZ, but it's pretty clear she had a lot to do with the CRIZ. How is this not a conflict of interest? When he ran against Senator Browne many moons ago, Rick Orloski discussed this arrangement:
"Pat and Heather Browne have injected something new into Lehigh Valley politics, namely, the husband and wife team working in the Capitol with Pat Browne receiving public monies and Heather Browne receiving private monies to advance private agendas. Senators are supposed to serve the public good, not private agendas. Maybe the ideal solution is for Pat Browne to relinquish his public position and join his wife's lobbyist firm."
Under the state Ethics Act,
"A conflict of interest is defined as use by a public official or public employee of the authority of his office or employment or any confidential information received through his holding public office or employment for the private pecuniary benefit of himself, a member of his immediate family, or a business with which he or a member of his immediate family is associated."
It appears that Browne's vote to support the CRIZ was for the private pecuniary interest of his wife and hence a conflict.

Let's discuss another wart.

According to the CRIZ application, Martin Tower represents a $175 million investment. There will be $.42.8 million in financing, with an annual debt service of about $3 million. It is projected to create 1,375 jobs. Total CRIZ revenue through 2024 is estimated at $34.2 million.

The only way that happens is with retail. Lots of retail.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Martin Tower RTK: Ronca Wanted to Wear Public Out

Bethlehem has filed a detailed response to a right-to-know request I filed in October, seeking the following:
"This request is for the period of time extending between 1/1/13 and present. It applies to all City of Bethlehem employees as well as all members of Council and the Planning Commission. What is sought is all correspondence, email communications and text messages between City of Bethlehem employees, City Council members and Planning Commissioners and representatives of the Martin Tower development related to the following topics:
          1) Participation by Martin Tower development in the CRIZ project.
          2) The zoning changes at Martin Tower development under consideration by City Council.
          3) Campaign contributions.
          4) leasing of the martin tower site for Celtic Fest.
I have started to go through it, and will report my conclusions soon. But the more eyes that see this, the more likely it is that someone will pick up on things that I miss. For that reason, I have uploaded the response below.

This is an exercise in participatory journalism. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to go through this RTK and note your conclusions in the comments. Here's what I know so far:

* Developer Lew Ronca and his sidekick, Duane Wagner, were in on this new ordinance from the onset. It is NOT a City proposal, despite the City's claim that it is.

* Duane Wagner went so far as to provide talking points to Planning Director Darlene Heller to use with the public, including the myth that the current ordinance allows up to 425,00 sq ft for retail.

* Lew Ronca was hiding in the hallway during the public hearing, but left because he "needed to avoid reporters." He was engaged in a text message party with DCED Director Alicia Karner during the hearing. The plan, it certainly seems, was to wear the public out with Heller's 2 hour, 15 minute presentation.

Oct 6
Ronca: "Didn't D [Darlene Heller] wear them out?" 
Karner: "Only a few."
Ronca:  "OK. Keep me posted. Any grumbling from the audience?"
Karner: "Hearing just ended. rest of council to go. 34 speakers. 2 supportive."
Oct 7
Ronca: "What time did you get out of there?"
Karner: "Idk. 1230 or so."
Ronca: "My God. Had I known I would have bought you a drink or two after that!"
Karner: "http://lehighvalleyramblings.blogspot.com/2015/10/bethlehem-city-council-proves-they-can.html"
Ronca: "There ya go. All was not wasted then!!"
Ronca: "Yes. I read that first thing this morning. Schweder is an asshole by the way."
Karner: "First I ever saw/heard him speak." 
Ronca: "There is a story. I'll tell you when I see you."
Karner: "Can't wait (note the sarcasm)."
Oct 8
Ronca: "Can you meet with me and the mayor tmrw at 3:30?"
Karner:"Yes. At Mayor's office?"
Ronca: "Yes please. See you then." 

The documents:

Part One, Part Two, Part 3, Part 3 (cont'd), Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11

NorCo Jail's Subtle Racism in Hiring and Discipline

Yesterday, I told you that a former stripper and heroin user is working as a corrections officer at the jail. She was hired in January 2014 despite a complete inability to produce a complete work history that would reveal she worked as a stripper and was a heroin user. She is white, proudly refers to herself as a redneck and has displayed both religious intolerance and bigotry on her Facebook page. While she slips through the cracks, many Latinos and blacks who are being denied employment in what appears to be a double standard - one set of rules for white applicants and another for minority hires. This double standard also extends into discipline.

The chief excuses for refusing to hire a Latino or African American is "lack of life experience." At the same time, the County hires 18 year old white kids fresh out of high school. "Poor job retention" was the reason for refusing to hire an honorably discharged 23 year-old Coast Guard veteran. At the same time, whites with a demonstrated  inability to hold onto a job are hired. One black female was denied employment for lying on her job application. She had denied ever working for the County, but had been employed at Gracedale. She was unaware that Gracedale is a County facility. While she was denied a job, the white Madame X was hired despite misrepresenting herself on her application by failing to report her work as a stripper or her drig history.

One black applicant who had lost a job after testing positive for marijuana was denied employment at the jail. Yet white Madame X admitted to experimenting with heroin and was hired.

If a minority applicant is lucky enough to get hired, he is subjected to the same double standard when it comes to discipline.

* A Latina corrections officer was disciplined for letting a visitor with a cell phone get by her during a visit. Yet the white front gate officer received no discipline even though that cell phone came in through that front gate and slipped by that officer, too.

* A Latina corrections officer rumored to be a member of the Latin Kings was investigated for potential gang involvement despite a lack of any credible evidence, and was eventually exonerated. Yet a white corrections officer who actually tape recorded a prison employee was never investigated despite knowledge by prison officials of this illegal act and the existence of the recording.

* A black corrections officer with a hair weave was declared "unfit for duty" and sent home, but a Lieutenant who attempted to enforce the uniform policy on a white female corrections officer was fired.

* A black corrections officer accused of an inappropriate relationship with an inmate was forced to endure an internal and District Attorney investigation, but a white Lieutenant who improperly tied to seek payment for a shift he never worked was never investigated for theft

* A Latina corrections officer who had inappropriate telephone conversations with an inmate was fired, but a white corrections officer who engaged in the same behavior was only suspended.

Beginning to see a pattern?

If you're the kind of person who routinely posts the Confederate Battle Flag on Facebook, you probably are missing it. But it appears that a subtle form of racism is at play, though most participants are probably unaware of it themselves.

NorCo Corrections Officer Admits Troubled Past

Yesterday, I told you that Northampton County employs a corrections officer with quite an interesting history. I call her Madame X. She failed to disclose her work history between 1989 and 1996, and for good reason. During much of that time, she was a stripper at various local bars like The Fox and Erv's, as well as at clubs in Jersey and New York. She also posed for biker magazines. In some instances, she is unclothed. After being hired in January 2014, she began to disclose her past to various people.

In addition to her work in the adult entertainment industry, Madame X also got mixed up in various drugs. One of those is heroin. Northampton County has a policy that anyone who has used heroin is automatically disqualified as a corrections officer. So is anyone who is less than completely honest on his or her job application.

In the course of searching her then public Facebook page, I found even more reason to be concerned. She has posted anti-Muslim remarks, and insists on repeatedly posting pictures of the Confederate Battle Flag. She is both religiously intolerant and a bigot. Many of the people in her care are black Muslims, and if a family member happened to see one of her rants, that could endanger both her and other guards.

Madame X changed the settings on her Facebook yesterday. But before doing so, she posted this comment.
I love when people try to make you look bad when they are the ones that did wrong.I'm not proud of my past but I'm not ashamed of it.when your a single mom and you can't get help.you are forced into doing whatever it takes to feed your kids no, I was never a hooker.and being concerned about terrorism and our government is everyone's concern.I am not racist.never was.but some people try to make you look that way..if that's what you got to do to make me look bad.then shame on you..so I think some jokes are funny ..sure..it's a joke...and if it happened to be a bit distasteful and I laugh or share it..so what.it doesn't mean I'm racist..I started my turn to Christianity about 13 yrs ago and it's been a tough road..it's not easy being a Christian,but I am getting better although I have a long way to go because I am human and all humans are not perfect.God said so.so the ones that are skimming my Facebook and putting it out there that I'm all kind of a bad person..good for you...I actually laughed when I read the blog..you need to get your story straight...if you want to know about me.I'll tell you all about me to your face..you don't need to get stories from people who don't know me..and feeding you lies..but my God is bigger than you...and we will all stand in judgement...btw...I will pray for you...
She denies ever having been a hooker. She does not specifically address the accusation that she posed for biker magazines or worked as a stripper, although there is photographic evidence. She does not address her prior drug use. She admits she is not proud of her past and did what she had to do. She also equates her opposition to Syrian refugees with a post in which she attacks a woman simply because she is a Muslim. She denies being a racist, but I can think of no other reason for her repeated use of the Confederate Battle Flag or her "joke" about shooting a Mexican and an Arab.

She admits to being an imperfect Christian, with which I'll agree. She's also an imperfect corrections officer, and I think she needs to find other employment at the county. She is too much of a risk in her current position.

Calling All NorCo NonUnion Workers

Although judges are seeking a 4.5% raise for their nonunion workers, there are numerous other nonunion workers in the County who could use a 4.5% raise, too. The County has failed to do a job study for years, and the only way to ensure some kind of parity in the workforce is an across-the-board wage hike.

County Council member Ken Kraft is poised to present a budget amendment seeking this kind of wage hike at next Wednesday's budget hearing. If you want to see this adopted, you need to be there to make your case.

Four LV Legislators Will Skip Pa Society Gala

Yesterday, I pointed to the hypocrisy of state legislators and the Governor attending an upper crust gala with the Pa Society at Manhattan's Waldorf Astoria when they have demonstrated a complete inability to adopt a state budget. I contacted all members of the Lehigh Valley delegation. I've heard nothing from the senators, although I'm unsure my email to Senator Maria Scavello went through. I did hear from several state representatives, all of whom told me they will pass on the high society, especially if there's no budget.

State Rep. Steve Samuelson: "I will not attend. In fact, I have never attended the Pennsylvania Society.

1.       - We have work to do in Harrisburg.

2.       - Also, why isn’t this event held in Pennsylvania each year?

3.       - And since February 2015, the Waldorf Astoria – the site of the “Pennsylvania Society” – the has been owned by a Chinese insurance company ...

So, why would anyone who seeks to promote Pennsylvania’s economic prospects travel to New York City and boost the Chinese economy?

State Rep. Pete Schweyer: "Very simply, I will not be attending the PA Society Gala. I cannot in good conscience attend such an event in the absence of a budget. Of course I think we should be here Monday, November 30th as well; alas we aren’t scheduled for session at this point."

State Rep. Bob Freeman: "I will not be attending the PA Society Gala."

State Rep. Justin Simmons: "I will not be attending PA Society if the budget is not passed by then (highly doubt it will be)."

Several state reps have failed to respond, but my emails were bouncing, so don't hold a failure to rely against them.

Monday, November 23, 2015

NorCo Controller: Stop Payments to Harrisburg Until Budget Adopted

NorCo Controller Steve Barron is calling on County officials to stop sending tax payments in to Harrisburg until a state budget is adopted. Bucks and Lancaster County have both threatened to take that step as well. In addition, the County Commissioners' Association of Pennsylvania, which represents the interests if county government in Harrisburg, is pondering litigation to force the state to start funding human services for children, seniors and developmentally challenged.

“I advocated this several years ago when budgets were delayed,” Barron said. “It is not fair that the Commonwealth takes all these fees and taxes and sits on the money earning interest on the stockpile while forcing Counties to borrow funds and pay interest to make ends meet.”

“In just the Northampton County Recorder of Deeds office in the last 90 days the state has taken $2.96 million in real estate transfer tax fees,” Barron claimed. “I believe we should cut them off and send a message that once they start meeting their obligations to the county, we will start meeting our obligations to Commonwealth.”

Northampton County relies on the state for 2/3 of its $330 million dollar budget. It has already been forced to vote for a $50 million emergency line of credit so it can continue to pay for vital services to over 18,000 developmentally challenged adults, seniors and children. Lines of credit or some form of sort-term borrowing have also been authorized in Blair, Cambria, Columbia, Crawford, Erie, Schuylkill and York County.

Lehigh County has been able to weather the storm thus far, according to Frank Kane, who heads that county's Department of Community and Economic Development. He credits the County's $25 million stabilization fund, and noted that both Executive Tom Muller and Commissioners have been united in their approach.  

South Park's Flats at SoDoSoPa

Kenny can't sell them fast enough! Maybe The Morning Call will cover it.

South Park Has a NIZ and CRIZ, Too!

South Park has managed to take every bad economic development idea from Allentown and Bethlehem to create the City part of town.

NorCo Hires Former Heroin User and Stripper as Corrections Officer

When John Brown first became Northampton County Executive, amid trumpets and fireworks, another person was much more quietly starting her employment with the County as a corrections officer. She had good reason to fly under the radar because she had more than a few secrets. But within a month of being hired, she had told enough people about her past that word got back to then Corrections Director Arnie Matos. He refused to take action because, by this time, she and another corrections officer had become a part of the Cathy Allen snitch brigade. Unfortunately, instead of revealing real abuses at the jail, they are using their positions to trump up charges and get rid of good officers

I'll call her Madame X. When she first applied to work at the jail, she was interviewed by none other than Operations Administrator Al Crivellaro. You may recall that in 2010, he pleaded no contest to furnishing alcohol to ten minors during a graduation party for his daughter. When Colonial Regional Police responded, Crivellaro asked them to call Chief Roy "Buzzy" Seiple so he could use his connections to stop the charges. He failed, but managed to hold onto his job at the jail.

Did he use his connections to get Madame X hired? That's unclear, but what is known is that, in addition to doing the interview, Crivellaro volunteered to do the background check. That is something he had never done before, and is a task usually performed by Corrections Department Detective Chris Naugle.

The application cried out for answers. Though required to fill it out completely, Madame X had significant gaps in her work history, most notably between 1989 and 1996.

According to Crivellaro, she passed her background investigation with flying colors.

CR Fanny's closed after i worked there just one night. 
But soon after she started, she began telling co-workers about her past. Between 1989 and 1996, she had led quite an interesting life. She had worked as a stripper at various local establishments, as well as in New Jersey and New York. She had been a model for various Biker magazines, even posing nude. She sent some of these nude pictures to her new pals after being hired at the jail. But it was not all fun and games. She apparently had fallen into drug abuse, too. And with the worst possible drug. Heroin. She did kick her addiction, thanks to her first husband. During this time, when her life must have been at its lowest point, she told at least one person that she had turned to prostitution.

Though former Corrections Director Arnie Matos refused to take any action, she has since confirmed that she failed to submit a complete application. She has admitted to working in the adult entertainment industry, both as a stripper or dancer, and as a model for biker magazines. She has also admitted drug use, but attempts to minimize it.

She claims, for example, that she experimented once or twice with heroin.

Nobody experiments with heroin.

She has also used her connections with Assistant Administrator Cathy Allen and another corrections officer to try to get people fired. So far, they have managed, at least temporarily, to get rid of at least two prison workers on trumped up charges.

I'm all for giving people second chances. But corrections experts tell me that her past in adult entertainment could make her job more difficult, especially if she runs into people she knows from that world.

Northampton County has never had a problem hiring officers who at times smoked weed. But policy is that nobody who has used heroin should ever be hired to work as a corrections officer. In this case, it appears that Madame X has compounded her problem by being dishonest on her job application.

On top of everything else, she has another problem. She is a bigot. I looked at her Facebook page over the weekend. She has repeated posts of the Confederate Battle Flag, complains about the appointment to the Immigration Department of Fatima Noor, a Muslim who fled from Somalia as a child and became a United States citizen. She also claims, on Facebook, that we are one nation under God, not Allah. She just posted a joke about a redneck girl who shoots an Arab and a Mexican.

Very funny.

She certainly has a First Amendment right to be a bigot and be intolerant of other religions. But as a corrections officer, she will encounter numerous inmates who are black or Muslim or both. When she uses Facebook to make racist remarks or statements that infringe on religious freedom guaranteed in this country, she should be fired for that reason alone. Exercising those rights have consequences.

She is also endangering own safety, as well asthe safety of other corrections officers with these unnecessary statements.

She proudly refers to herself as a redneck. At the jail, it appears that only rednecks need apply. I'll tell you about that tomorrow.

While State Burns, Wolf and State Elite to Fiddle at Waldorf

Though a budget breakthrough is supposedly on the way, you never know what's going to happen in the land of midnight payraises. According to the Philadelphia Tribune, rare pangs of conscience (or more likely, election fears) are troubling some state legislators over a regressive sales tax increase that will have a disproportionate and devastating impact on the working poor. But it's not bothering them enough to call off the annual Pa Society shindig at the Waldorf Astoria in NYC.

State reps like Mike Schlossberg will dig into his campaign treasury to reserve his hotel room and rent a tux, if he hasn't bought one already. He, Fed Ed and other members of the LV delegation will make their annual pilgrimage to the Big Apple to dine on oysters and Delmonicos with the developers and business interests who really run this state.

According to the nonpartisan Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, sales taxes are regressive because they "inevitably take a larger share of income from low- and middle-income families than from rich families because sales taxes are levied at a flat rate and spending as a share of income falls as income rises." Putting it on Robin Hood terms, they steal from the poor and give to the rich.

Candidate Tom Wolf criss crossed the state in a Jeep Wrangler, trying to pretend he was one of us. But Governor Tom Wolf is tuning up his violin and has already sold out the very people - the working poor - who put him where he is.

In the meantime, out-of state frackers are laughing all the way to the bank.

Updated 11:30 AM - Bumstead reports some lawmakers will skip event if budget deal not reached. - You can read his report here.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Opinions Online, 11/21/15

Blogger's Note: Opinions Online is a regular Saturday feature. If you'd like to express your opinion on any topic, click on the Opinions Online button on my left sidebar. You can also call 385-325-2564. In addition to these submissions, I am taking some comments from throughout the week and re-publishing them here.


I just want to put in a statement of support and thanks for Bethlehem's police and fire departments. With all the political problems this city is exhibiting, and with all the bad news stories about excessive police force from around the country -- many of which deserve attention -- I just want to say that every single contact I have ever had with Bethlehem city police has been good. The officers are prompt when called, they are professional, they are appropriate, they are helpful when they can be. I think with Thanksgiving coming, we should give thanks for a fine police department in the City of Bethlehem.


Sir, pray tell how is it possible to be accepted into a first time offender program for a third DUI.
Might this sort of behavior present a risk of injury, or worse
to the good citizens of the region?

Blogger's Reply: If the third DUI is more than ten years old, it is considered a fist offense.


I thought Republicans were against higher taxes? In South Whitehall a entire Board of Commissioners made up entirely of Republicans is raising taxes again for the second straight year! I guess RINOs rule in SWT


This has nothing to do with LV Ramblings., but I've read your blog for years and know of your connection to Kurt V. so I thought this would be of interest:

FX Developing Kurt Vonnegut Project
Nov 18, 2015 • Post A Comment
FX is developing a series based on a Kurt Vonnegut novel. Writing on Deadline.com, Nellie Andreeva reports that the channel has “Cat’s Cradle” in the pipeline as a limited series.

The project comes from IM Global and FX Productions, and will be written and executive produced by Noah Hawley of “Fargo.”

Published in 1963, the popular Vonnegut book “takes a satirical view of war, religion and scientific advances,” Andreeva notes, adding: “It was among the projects on the maiden development slate of IM Global Television, the TV arm of feature-film financing, production and sales company IM Global — a subsidiary of Indian conglomerate Reliance ADA — which was unveiled in April.”

cat's cradle-kurt vonnegut-book cover.


As I have watched the Brown Administration over the almost past two years , I am struck with how many changes he attempts with little or no thought to the ramifications. Is this a reflection of his past as a consultant? After all if no change is made how good was the consultant ? Has anyone ever seen his resume ?

Friday, November 20, 2015

NorCo Tidbits

1) NorCo Exec John Brown had proposed Cindy Miller to replace Tony Pristash on the Gaming Board. But at Wednesday's Personnel Committee, several Council members were upset that Brown would want to replace Pristash, a volunteer who enjoys what he is doing and never misses a meeting. Brown has withdrawn the Miller nomination, but won't say whether he intends to submit Pristash.

2) NorCo's Personnel Appeals Board has not met since a July hearing for a Lieutenant at the jail who was fired in January. Scott parsons asked Brown to direct the Personnel Appeals Board to scedule a regular monthly meeting and begin demanding attorneys to appear.

3) The Hotel Tax Grants of about $500,000 will not be awarded until January 21, at the earliest. These grants have been delayed bc DCED Director Diane Donaher took it upon herself to tell the usual applicants not to bother applying this year. brown quickly reversed her when he found out, and has accepted full responsibility for her error.    

NorCo Council Refuses To Repeal $50 Million Loan

(Blogger's Note: This is similar to yesterday's story, which inaccurately claimed that the repeal could not be voted on until December. I felt I should rerun the story, but try to do so more accurately). 

At their November 5 meeting, Northampton County Council voted 6 to 3 to approve an emergency ordinance authorizing Executive John Brown to borrow up to $50 million so that the County can continue paying human service providers out of its own pocket during the state budget impasse. Fiscal Affairs Director Jim Hunter has since secured a line of credit with Lafayette Bank to borrow only what the County needs, starting sometime in December.

But is the state budget logjam finally breaking up? The Governor's spokesperson, Jeff Sheridan, claims there's a "tentative agreement," and is hopeful that the record-setting stalemate will be over by Thanksgiving. But there is no way of knowing just how long it will take for state reimbursement of human service providers.

Given this uncertainty, Council at its November 19 meeting quickly rejected a Lamont McClure repeal of the $50 million loan authorization. Only Ken Kraft joined him in attempting to kill the loan. .

Executive John Brown stated that, even if the state Budget is adopted by Thanksgiving, it's unclear when state reimbursements will begin trickling back to the County.

"We'll only take exactly what we need," pledged Brown, who indicated the first draw of about $2 million would take place in the first week of December.

Lamont McClure was bothered about borrowing $50 million when the County already has a $10 million rainy day fund. This would require Council action. McClure told Brown, "I think [Council] would give you authorization to use the rainy day fund when it's raining."

But there's another problem. The County can't get at it without incurring penalties. Brown conceded that perhaps that should change.

Northampton County's southern neighbor, Bucks County, is spending about $6 million per month of its own reserves for important programs like child protective services. But instead of borrowing, Bucks Commissioners have threatened to withhold between $4-5 million in taxes and fees it collects monthly for the state, and has already established an escrow fund for that purpose. Bucks stopped paying human service providers in July.

A breakdown of how counties are responding to the budget crisis is located here.

Scomillio Still Won't Concede

Though Sam Murray won by a fairly comfortable margin in the judicial race, opponent Vic Scomillio still refuses to concede. He's waiting for the official results, which might come as early as today.

Now maybe he thinks that four or five military ballots will push him over the top. Or maybe he's waiting for Sam to concede. I don't know.But his refusal to recognize the obvious is just more proof that he currently lacks the temperament to be a judge.

Plus, it's tacky.

NorCo Council Approves $720,500 in Table Games Grants

By an 8 to 1 vote, Northampton County Council has approved $720,500 in table games grants. They are part of Executive John Brown's Community Investment Partnership Program (CIPP), which he first announced in January. The plan is to use table games revenue from the Sands Casino for a variety of grants and revolving loans, with an emphasis on aging boroughs and townships. By August, there were 43 grant applications, which were rated by a committee comprised of county bureaucrats, LVPC and Council member Scott Parsons. Those were whittled down to 22 projects, including four facade plans, a stormwater study for Bethlehem Ttownship and Freemansburg, as well as a regional animal control officer in the slate belt.

Most of Council's discussion focused on whether to vote for this individually or as a block. Lamont McClure said there were a few grants he opposed. Hayden Phillips said he opposed one. Bt Council, which has discssed these grants at several meetings, decided to vote them up or down as a block. McClure voted Yes and Phillips ended up beingthe sole No, because of opposition to one project.

The grants are listed below.

NorCo Says Good-Bye to Gracedale "Godsend" D Freeman

Bob Werner (left) presents proclamation honoring D Freeman (right) 
Gracedale Administrator D Freeman, who has served Northampton County since June 2012, announced his resignation during County Council's November 19 meeting. He's leaving for a nursing home administrator position in the private sector, at Parkhouse Nursing Home and Rehabilitation Center in Royersford.

Freeman came with Premier Healthcare Resources, a privatized administrator for a public home.

The biggest change under Freeman has been a significant increase in residents at Gracedale. Census has grown from 590, when the threat of sale loomed, to highs near 700. The more patients, the more revenue.

He also aggressively pursued accounts receivable, conducting bi-weekly accounts receivable reviews thatwent through each file. going through each file. A collections law firm has brought in $1.4 million, and payment plans are in place for some accounts that were written off in the past.

Through effective use of risk management, workers' compensation claims have dropped from $2 million in 2011 to just $166,000 last year.

Most importantly, and for the first time in 40 years, Gracedale received a zero-deficiency survey from the Department of Health.

Northampton County Council honored Freeman with a proclamation, with Bob Werner calling Freeman a "Godsend."

I Will Be Brief

When NorCo Controller Steve Barron says, "I will be brief," it's time to break out the cold weather camping gear. It's going to be a while. He's a politician, and like all politicians, he likes to talk. So much so that he used to write himself in during courtesy of the floor. Council finally decided to give him his very own spot on the agenda if he really, really has something to say. He always does, and the November 19 meeting was no exception despite a packed agenda.

He just had something to day the day before. At the Finance Committee , he waxed on with about 137 audit reports.

If you have trouble sleeping, listen to them some time.

"I will be brief," he said then, too.

Council President Peg Ferraro tried to give him a hint when she asked, "Do you have a report?" Of course he did, and up to the podium he went. He is very excited about his new anonymous tip hot line, which employees and residents can call to report fraud and waste.

The number is 610-829-6616.

His brief remarks went on for about five minutes. And then Council members, who are politicians and like to talk, too, went on with about another five minutes worth of questions.

Seriously, what about an anonymous tip line that merits five minute of explanation followed by five minutes of discussion. They even managed to get Solicitor Phil Lauer involved with questions about liability.

When Barron had finally finished, it was Executive John Brown's turn to give his report.

"I will be brief," he said.

So if anyone wants to call this tip line to report government waste, you have a few good examples.

ASD Solicitor: FT Union President Illegal

In an opinion released to Allentown School Board last night, Solicitor John Freund concludes that there "is no statutory authority ... for the District to pay the salary of the union president to perform union responsibilities, absent reimbursement by the [teachers' union]." He states that even if the school district agrees to do so, "entering into a contract for the performance of full-time union responsibilities, absent reimbursement, is ultra vires. Moreover, such an agreement may be in violation of the Pennsylvania Constitution and void as against public policy. "

So when the school board entered into a contract under the terms of wehich it agreed to pay the union president with no reimbursement from the union, it broke the law.

This practice is currently under challenge in Philadelphia, where teachers have been released to do full-time work for their unions.

In Fruend's view, any teacher who serves as FT union president might also be in danger of losing tenure.