Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Lamont McClure's Law & Order Committee Strikes Again ..., With Another Sunshine Act Violation

Yesterday was Lamont McClure's day to shine. He convened his first Norco law and order committee meeting of the year. Its purpose? To make Controller John Schimmel look like an idiot.

McClure prepared by spending $1,000 of your money to have a forensic accountant review the practices of an embezzler, a low-level deputy who may have pocketed $125 thousand from the criminal division over five years. She was finally caught when she deposited her own checks for $300 and $45 into a bail bond account, presumably to cover an earlier theft.

Her folly has already resulted in an explosion of audits and criminal charges. It has hurt colleagues in the criminal division, hard-working people who really care about their job. We already know what happened. We even know why - a county worker simply had too much control over too many things. But that didn't stop McClure. He's got an election to win and had $1,000 to burn.

Armed with his $1,000 letter, McClure summoned Schimmel. The controller patiently explained his small staff follows directions from an outside auditor under contract with the county. McClure was having none of that. "You should come to council if you don't like something instead of taking the ostrich approach." When Schimmel quietly noted he has two less employees than he did twenty years ago, McClure accused him of wasting resources by doing "political audits" for previous councils. Really? Which audit would that be, Lamont? The one correctly predicting that a $111 million megabond would result in a tax increase? Or how about that silly audit revealing rampant countywide cell phone abuse, including a DCED director who rang up $1,388 in personal calls to arrange wife-swapping trysts? Shall I go on and start talking about those political bribery indictments?

After admonishing Schimmel, McClure demanded to speak with Zelenkofske Axelrod LLC, our former external auditors. They agreed with Schimmel. "The controller can't dictate the scope of our audit or it will actually be an impairment." They also made clear that internal controls are a county responsibility. "It's your obligation to set policy."

Fortunately, that's now happening. Acting Director of court services Bill Hillanbrand has made certain that internal controls are in place. "The buck stops with me." He handed the committee a list of actions taken (sorry, I don't have the list), and introduced our new clerk of the criminal division.

Finally, a weary John Stoffa approached the podium. He looked tired tonight. He wasn't playing politics. He wasn't worried about his job. He just spoke the truth. "We collect cash in thirty-three different places. It's crazy. ... Sooner or later it's going to happen again because people are smart. ... I welcome auditors. But an audit is no good unless you follow up on it."

Stoffa's right. If someone wants to steal, he'll find a way. People are smart that way. I don't care whether it's Northampton County or Fort Knox.

Because audit recommendations were never implemented in the criminal division, a theft occurred. Did we need a $1,000 forensic auditor for that?

Soon after Stoffa spoke, McClure ended the meeting with another Sunshine Act violation. He never bothered to offer the public an opportunity to speak, and I pointed it out. McClure has that legal obligation. Fellow council members, Diane Neiper and John Cusick, should recognize this as well.

McClure's Sunshine Act violation reinforces what I already knew. His motives for last night's meeting had nothing to do with accountability or good government. It's just politics, bippy.
Update: The Express Times has a well-written and more objective account of yesterday's meeting.

17 comments:

William Hillanbrand said...

The list of actions were internal controls and separation of duties regarding financial transactions within the criminal division. I will make a copy for you (or anyone else for that matter), first thing in the morning. Stop in my new office on the lower level when you get a chance. I made just enough copies to give to county council and the press. I have to get used to making copies for bloggers (the new press?) as well. Mia culpa.

Rising Sun said...

Sounds like a fun meeting.

Nice picture.

Anonymous said...

please explain what "bribery" scandal schimmel ever uncovered?

Bernie O'Hare said...

ZA and Schimmel's staff, during the course of the external audit, ended up getting the FBI involved. It led to a federal prosecution against Michael Solomon for what essentially amounts to bribery. Solomon was soaking a county contractor. Some insurance agent was prosecuted, too. Solomon ended up in club fed.

It really frosted me to hear McClure arrogantly unfairly assert the auditor did "political audits." It was an unprofessioanl assertion. I could understand someone saying that Schimmel has been there long enough. I can understand someone saying that someone else could do better. But charging Schimmel with prostituting himself by doing political audits is totally unfair. I can't think of many people who are less politically oriented than Schimmel.

Billy Givens said...

We can tear up Northampton County's Home Rule Charter. It's meaningless, and, as Councilman Ron Angle has often proposed, should be replaced by the commission form of county government, like Lehigh County.

The Northampton County Controller Office, currently under the direction of John Schimmel, is an independent branch of county government, and the Controller is an elective position - just like the county executive and members of council, the county's governing body.

John Schimmel and his office conspired with both the executive and legislative branches in covering up the Tredinnick Report and telephone abuse and the allocation of proceeds from the 2001 $111 million bond to another poltical jurisdiction, Lehigh County, through the corrupt Lehigh Valley Economic Development Authority, the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce, the Lehigh Valley Industrial Parks, the Lehigh Valley Partnership, the Job Corp., and numerous other "non-profit" organizations, or shadow governments.

The biggest and most common error in the floating of government bonds is the allocation of their revenue proceeds to political jurisdictions other than those in which the bonds are issued.

As for Northampton County's fomer Director of its Community and Economic Development Director, Vince Dominach, referred to in your today's blog posting, he would still be in that position except for the Billy Bytes publications and their illustrator.

Chris Casey said...

Now that Billy is done with his off topic diatribe....

I like LAW AND ORDER, great show

LAW AND ORDER SVU, it's graet too, but more intense

LAW AND ORDER< CI, I like it better with Chris Noth now.

LAW AND ORDER, LAMONT McCLURE?
LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Billy Givens said...

The Northampton Controller Office is also a co-conspirator in the county's cover up of the firing of whistleblowers Jeff Britland and Karen Brandau, employees of the county's computer services provider, Affiliated Computer Services of Houston,Texas.

Brithland and Brandau reported the hacking of the county's computers to John Schimmel and the county's Fiscal Affairs Director Jean Mateff.

Though the hacking of government computers, at any level, is a federal offense, the Controller and Fiscal Affairs Director covered up the offense.

A few years earlier, Edward "Bernie S" Cummings, a regular contributor to New York's WBAI-FM radop station was arrested in Haverford, Pennsylvania, without probably cause, and prosecuted in Northampton County's Court of Common Pleas under presiding Judge Jack Panella and Secret Service agents under FISA (Federal Intelligence Security Act), whose successor is the notorious PATRIOT Act of President George W. Bush and U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

Rising Sun said...

hahaha, Chris is hilarious.

Second off, I'm glad i'm not the only one who could not decipher the meaning of Billy's rants. I sometimes wonder if I'm missing something when I read his rants, as they are nonsensical. I don't know what else to say about them.

Billy Givens said...

Correction. FISA is the acronym for Foreign Intelligence Act, modified by John Ashcroft's and Alberto Gonzales' PATRIOT Act.

At least President Thomas jefferson and his agraians were able to repeal the Alien and Sedition Acts of his predecessor, Pres. John Adams and the Federalists.

It's scary to think that the anti-civil liberties Smith and McCarron Acts dating from the Cold War are still on the bookds, never repealed.

A glimmer of hope is that Jefferson also inspired the Jefferson Initiative Reforms that would overhaul Pennsylvania's Constitution of 1873, badly needed and long overdue.

It was this Constitution that allowed the notorious Ripper Act of 1901 that enabled Harrisburg's corrupt politicians to suspend local government in Philadelphia and Pittsburg, where local government has again been suspended by Act 71, "leglized" casino and racino gambling, and its corollary, Act 72, specious school property tax reform so favored by Northampton County Executive John Stoffa.

Anonymous said...

Somebody stop BillY!!!
What the hell does the Alien and sedition acts of the 18th century got to do with Lamont McClure?!!!

Billy Givens said...

Bernie,

On problem I have with your OT policy is that I like to go back and read your previous postings.

I fear that if I comment there, and not on your current postings, it won't be read.

For example, yesterday I revisited your post re Onembo, Garb, and the Northampton County Court of Common Pleas in general.

And again, I was appalled, even though my own blog - and website and hand-distrbuted and bullhorn-delivered exhortations - has exposed the same corruption that's eating this county like matastasizing cancer.

Rising Sun said...

Billy,

For once I agree with you, the Alien and Sedition Acts were bad then, and now.

I'm unsure how you got onto that subject though?

Anonymous said...

Billy Givens @ 4:51 PM writes "I fear that if I comment there (on earlier posts), and not on your current postings, it won't be read."

Not to fear, dear Billy. Your long-winded diatribes aren't usually read on previous or present posts. Sorry, old beauty.

Billy Givens said...

Bernie,

Your post I referred to specifically is titled, "The Lucrative World of Northampton County Court Administrator," dated August 15, 2006, and referring to New Jersey resident Jim Onembo.

I commented that Onembo's conduct is appalling. It is as reprehensible as the Medusa-headed-like creature illustrating your post.

Onembo's corrupt conduct, and that of other county officials, and those of the county's seat Easton, Bethlehem, Allentown, and, indeed, what now passes as the "Lehigh Valley" including all of Warren and Hunterdon counties and possibly all of new Jersey - at least according to the article by The Morning Call business reporter Gregory Karp on the subject of the latest Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) boundaries issued by the federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB) based on the year 2000 National Census figures.

Corruption of this magnitude has become intolerable and can no longer be tolerated. The Easton Charter Commission has no intention of any meaningful reforms of the city's form of government - any more than Pennsylvania's legislators and governor have of a convention reforming the state Constitution embodying the so-called Jefferson Initiative Reforms.

These corrupt officials would have to be dragged out of Harrisburg leaving their heelmarks in the concrete before they's yield their power.

As long as they and the judges are there, we will se no I&R (Initiative and Referendum).

We will continue to be the victims of the Consitution of 1873 that has given us the notorious Ripper Act of 1901, replaced by the equally corrupt municipality classification system, and, most recently, Act 71 and its corollary, Act 72.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Billy, you kill comment threads with your OT comments. It's counterproductive. You destroy interest instead of creating it.

You have your own blog. You can write all you want there. Stop monopolizing this one.

Billy Givens said...

Rising Sun.

If my Alien and Sedition Acts remarks were a seque, or "OT" under my friend Bernie O'Hare's blog policy, it's because the government of Northampton County and its seat Easton are more reflective of the government of U.S. President John Adams than of a democracy.

Northampton County and City of Easton governments are repressive, like those of President Adams and his Federalist Party.

I want our Constitution of 1837, which has given us the notorious Ripper Act of 1901 that suspended local government in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

The Ripper Act was repealed in 1903, but unfortunately it was replaced by the municipality classifaction legislation.

This legislation still allows the state of Pennsylvania to interfere unduly with local government.

The Encyclopedia Brittanica 1917 edition says that Pennsylvania is arguably the worst state in the union for its interference in the affairs of local government.

Ramming Act 71, "legalized" gambling, down the throats of local governments in Pennsylvania has precipitated a constitutional crisis, one that I as a candidate for Northampton County Council's lone at-large seat in November's general election I will not shrink from.

Billy Givens said...

Rising Sun,

I also mentioned the Alien and Sedition Acts because of the circus-like trial in Northampton Court of Common Pleas presided over by Judge Jack Panella - who, I believe, is up for retention next year - of Ed "Bernie S" Cummings.

Cummings was arrested in Haverford Township without probable cause and somehow ended up first in the Bucks County Prison, from which he was transferred to the Northampton County prison, from there to the Lehigh County Prison, where his arm and jaw were broken by a fellow inmate, and finally moved back to Northampton County prison for trial.

Alien and Sedition Acts, Smith and McCarron Acts, Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), PATRIOT Act, etc. - none meant to protect bona fide American citizens from Aliens - just look at our broken border between the U.S. and Mexico - but to spy on patriotic American citizens like Cummings, Dan Tilli of Bethlehem, and the two Texas border patrolmen sentenced to something like 12 years in prison for protecting America's borders.

And for any here in Northampton County and Easton whose myopia prevents them from seeing as far away as Texas, try Hazleton, Pennsylvania, fewer than 100 miles away.