Monday, May 25, 2015

Nazareth Under Martial Law?


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

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

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

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

She thought it was rain, and I agreed.

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


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

Just a Common Soldier


You can read the poem here.

Friday, May 22, 2015

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

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

4 Year

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

2 year

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

Executive Ordered to Justify Raises Or Face Legal Action

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brown then stated  transparency means different things to different people.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

UPDATED: NorCo Exec Lists 17 Awarded Raises Without Council

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

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

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

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

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

Council Members/Linda:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Phil Lauer

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


17 Magistrate Workers Shortchanged on Raise

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

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

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

Makes sense to me.

DA Morganelli on the Cone of Silence

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

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

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

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

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

Officer Claims Troxell Threatened Physical Retaliation

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

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

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

Schleig is actually an Eagle scout.

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

Nazareth Cop Faces Civil Rights Lawsuit Over Suicide

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

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

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

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

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

So far, so good.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Kassis Candidacy Fails (Updated)

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

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

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

Tea Party Candidates Fail in Bethlehem Tp

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See You Thursday

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

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Turnout Low in Hanover 3

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

Repyneck Continues to Demonstrate Ignorance of Law

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

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

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

"Sally" Dedicated at SteelStacks



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

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

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

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

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

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

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




It''s In Your Hands Now

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

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

Vote!

Hanover Tp Observes 4th Annual Armed Forces Day

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

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

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

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



Monday, May 18, 2015

Judge Giordano Receives Another Police Endorsement

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

Express Times Publishes One NorCo Election Story

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

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

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

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

My Election Picks: Who Gets My Kiss of Death?

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

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

Northampton County Council District Three

John Cusick (R candidate)

Mickey Thompson (R candidate)

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

Northampton County Council District Four

Lorin Bradley (Republican)

Matthew Dietz (Republican)

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

Northampton County Judge

Abe Kassis

Sam Murray

Vic Scomillio

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

Bethlehem City Council four year seats (three)

Mike Recchiuti (i)

Willie Reynolds (i)

Michael Colon

Shawn Martell

Bethlehem City Council two year seat (one)

Jeff Kocsis (two year)

Matt McKernan  (two year)

Olga Negron (two year)

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

1st Ward

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

3rd Ward

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

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

Phil deserves re-election.

At Large

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

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

Zawarski is clearly the best choice among the three Republicans.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Commonwealth Court. - Coalcracker ✓ Todd Eagen.

Why is Michael Assise Really Running For Constable?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Tea Party Extremists Aid in Kassis Deception

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

Here are the facts.

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

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

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

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

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