Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Wanted: Bounty Hunters

Economy got you down, bippy? Laid off? Reduced hours? Well, I've got just the job for you. Unlike those boring brain surgeon and rocket scientist openings, this one requires no education or experience. If you hustle, you can make more money doing this than most Lehigh Valley attorneys see in a year. Best of all, you name your own hours and can still be an idiot.

No, I'm not talking about mayor or county executive.

Chances are, you've probably seen one or two over the years, tooling down the street in a converted cop cruiser. Sometimes, they wear improvised swat team uniforms, size XXXXL. A few even deck themselves out just like state troopers, right down to the Smokey Bear hat. But that size XXXXL uniform gives them away. If you're thinking Mall Cop, you're close. I'm talking about Pennsylvania's very own bounty hunters - the constable.

As a matter of full disclosure, I'm on a first name basis with several of these dudes. I've even driven in the back of some of their converted cruisers. You see, I accumulate parking tickets so often I really should look into a "frequent offender" discount. Now that I'm an old fart, they usually just call me.

An ancient office, constables have existed since the time of Edward Longshanks, not to be confused with Edwin of Renaissance Square. 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.

Before you sneer at the idea of serving papers, consider this. In 2007, Constable Frederick Schoenenberg raked in a cool $131,175.26, just from Northampton County. It's conceivable he made even more money doing work for magistrates in other counties. After control over constable payments was switched from court administrator to county fiscal affairs in 2007 to comply with some ruling from the state supremes, constable costs skyrocketed 75%, which drew the attention of Controller Steve Barron. Most constables appear to view the job as strictly part time, but some of them make a lot of money. Joshua Wagner, a hustler, was paid $99,257.88, just in Northampton County. The constable who usually arrests me, Stan Smith, was paid $77,293.33. Considering that a magistrate is paid $78,722, that's pretty good money.

Below you will see a list of Northampton County's payments to twenty-seven constables in 2007. Remember, these are just the payments from one county. I've linked their names to their ethics statements. Because constables are subject to very little oversight, both the state Supreme Court and state rep. Tom Caltagirone are considering reforms.

Peter Cochran - $14,757.95
(Easton Fire Department)

Tyrone J Comunale - $28,091.77
(works in six different magisterial districts throughout several counties)

James P. Doyle - $53,308.25
(serves Bethlehem's 14th ward, the Lehigh County Sheriff's Office and LTriC)

David Enstrom - $8,039.15
(serves Bethlehem's 9th ward, and is a cop with Upper Nazareth and at the Airport)

Shawn Fariello - $6,235.00
(Shawn is also an Easton area paramedic who can resuscitate you if you keel over after being served with a warrant)

Christopher Fenner - $16,860.25
(A Bethlehem city worker who moonlights serving warrants in Lower Saucon Tp)

Lamar Fronheiser - $1,771.20
(This dude is from Palmerton, and probably is out trapping beaver or something right now)

Paul Gilmore - $7,793.34
(Pen Argyl constable who works in Horsham)

Jonathan Hagenbuch - $49,085.46
(A Forks Tp constable who works full-time for Palmer Township)

Denise Halupka - $6,471.75
(Denise is actually a deputy constable who works full-time for the county).

Scott Hough - $65,820.42
(Hough is currently suing Northampton County for injuries sustained going after an escaped prisoner, the job he was elected to do. Good luck with that one, Scott.)

Ronald Kummer, Sr. - $39,915.37
(Ronald is another deputy constable. His turf is Easton)

William Kummer - $89,928.21
(William makes a living at it in Easton, and the pay's better than a magistrate!)

Walter Marinkovits - $9,103.43
(For reasons unknown, this Northampton resident calls himself "constable custodian." Maybe he takes out the garbage when he arrests someone)

Darden Napolitano - $67,796.41
(Business must be booming in Freemansburg. Just wait 'till there's a casino!)

Robert L Pepe - $14,878.38
(A Wind Gap cop, Pepe could make more money if he were more peppy)

Frederick Schoeneberger - $131,175.26
(This dude is cleaning up in Wilson Borough. Must be those damn meters by St. Luke's)

Richard Seeds - $43,670.52
(A Bethlehem Township constable, I'll have to tell Richard all the nasty things Lamont McClure has been saying about him)

Charles Seyfried - $42,416.65
(Charles, who works out of Bethlehem, actually typed his ethics statement)

David Sheats - $53,198.35
(A Lehigh Township constable who works for the City of Bethlehem. Do you give a sheat?)

Willard Sigley, Jr. - $39,019.16
(Elected in Lower Nazareth, Willard works both counties)

Stan Smith - $77,293.33
(Rumors that Stan once hog-tied me and walked away laughing are greatly exaggerated. He just smiled)

Paul Soldridge - $5,168.25
(Paul works mostly out of Coplay)

James Soldridge - $3,902.20
(James works out of North Whitehall Tp)

Joshua Wagner - $99,257.58
(This Bethlehem constable has to be in love with parking meters)

Adam Wood - $922.10
(Dude, why bother?)

James Wood- $21,639.68
(Woody is also an "attendance officer" for Easton schools.)
Update: The Morning Call reports that Constable Joshua Wagner (paid $99,257.58 in 2007) is seeking the $78,722 seat currently occupied by His Most Majestic Mightiness, the Honorable James F. Stocklas I, who has dispensed justice in North Bethlehem for thirty years. Judge Stocklas, before whom I've appeared as an unfortunate and wrongly accused parking meter defendant on multiple occasions over the years, never fell for my bullshit about Canadian quarters. He'll be a tough act to follow.


A.J.C. said...

Where do I sign up?

Bernie O'Hare said...

I'd like to be a deputy.


Wasn't it some constables who shot up a bunch of dogs while serving papers a few years back or something like that?

The one guy's $900 does look pretty wimpy compared to some of the others...


...he needs to light a fire under it.

Anonymous said...

these people are completely unaccountable to anybody. there have been stories of them walking into family homes, shooting the sleeping dog and holding people hostage until they get their money. some of them really think they are bounty hunters. Most are good people, but it's always the bad apples that should scare the crap out of us. there was a story in allentown maybe 7 or 8 years ago of a deputy that thought he was Dawg the Bounty Hunter who lit up the family's home, killing the dog and scattering bullets all over the walls. Oh yeah, the intended target wasn't home.

Anonymous said...

Ironpigs, yes it was. Actually two
constables in south Allentown. Quite horrible. Ran after one dog fleeing from the rooftop. Shot and killed him anyway. Maybe they make a fortune, but they can harm us. They are not to be treated

Anonymous said...

To: 7:10: They killed two dogs.

Anonymous said...

Permission to Post and change the subject:

Bernie, did you see this?

directly quoted from Allentown writer's blog Movolinsky:

Jan. 16, 2009

Weed and Seedy
In the 2005 Mayoral Campaign, as I listened to Edwin Pawlowski elaborate on how he would energize the local Weed and Seed initiative, although he never mentioned involuntary home inspections, I called it a crab grass program. Apparently I was wrong, it may well be a crass grab program. Today I interacted with the National Weed and Seed headquarters, they are not familiar with any mandatory homeowner participation, which is exactly what Allentown's systematic inspections constitute. I call upon Phyllis Alexander, Coordinator for Allentown's Weed and Seed, to explain this unique interpretation of a national program and justify the imposition upon our homeowners.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Yep, I saw it and MM is right - Phyllis Alexander owes us an explanation. So does the Mayor.

Anonymous said...

Phyllis Alexander needs to give a response to what now seems like
heavy-handed tactics and a lack of care for the very citizens she has pledged for many years to help.

Anonymous said...

"Yep, I saw it and MM is right - Phyllis Alexander owes us an explanation. So does the Mayor."

They owe the citizen of Allentown an explanation, not you. How arrogant do you have to be to think you are the person (along with MM) to whom they report. In a Democracy, the citizens are the bosses.

You are not an independant press (you are a blogger who is more akin to an opinion columnist). You are not the ones to whom Allentown officials are accountable. You want that honor: move to Allentown. Until then, remember that you are not the boss. We, the people who live and vote in Allentown, are.

That said, keep giving us information so we can hold them accountable.

Back to the topic: these bounty hunters are your friends. Will you demand the same accountability of them?

Anonymous said...

Joshua Wagner has announced he will seek Stocklas' District Justice seat. After seeing this, it looks like he will take a pay decrease if elected.

I assume he cannot do both, Constable and DJ. I know DJs are "part-time", but think doing both is a conflict of interest.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Umm, That's what I said.

I said these officials owe "us" an explanation, as in "we, the people." Being a blogger means nothing. MM did not call upon Alexander to explain to him, but to all of us.

Since Weed and Seed is a federally funded program, that duty of explanation extends beyond Allentown.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 9:33,

I don't think he could serve in both capacaties and yes, he would be taking a pay cut.

Anonymous said...

How about looking into rogue constaples that kill family pets and shoot up family homes? Bounty hunters are the topic, aren't they? Instead, you tell us how much money they can make and make it sound like a noble pursuit.

Anonymous said...

I, personally, have NEVER understood the aggressiveness Allentown takes when it comes to serving warrants for parking tickets. I KNOW it is money that goes to the Parking Authority and that the City of Allentown is constantly trying to obtain ways to get a piece of this financial pie; but I digress.
People often say, "Well, if they don't want a constable after them, pay the ticket." I agree. It seems simple enough. Unfortunately, many of us in A-town have found that there is virtually NO free parking in the business district or neighborhoods; even with supposed residential stickers you get caught one way or another, guaranteed. So what happens now ? Well, if you don't have the funds to pay, or foget, the ticket doubles or triples and then when the Constable comes you have to pay for their "services". Now, I don't know about anywhere else, but in downtown Allentown, the only people TRULY affected by these "bounty hunters" are the working poor who may happen to have a "piece of a car" or a 'clunker.' SO, while many of us Center City and downtown residents get booted and towed by the Parking Attendants (that's another story in itself) and THEN arrested by Constables (who WILL come to your job and take you away; how do you explain THAT to your boss and co-workers ?) I am unsure what the true goal is ? If it is to pay parking tickets, just suspend a person's license after a certain amount. THAT will give them incentive, but to put someone in jail for hours just so they can get out and make a "payment arrangement" with a judge ? THAT'S ridiculous.

Alfonso Todd

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 9:49,

I don't know where you get the idea that this was intended as flattery to constables.

Anonymous said...

thanks for the compliment(I think). Yes josh wagner would be taking a pay cut if elected. and yes he would have to give up his constable postion. the answer to the part time position of MDJ, if you do your job there is no way that your serving part time. between court days, administrative days and then the always dreeded night court, this is a full time position(unlike 30 yrs ago). by the way, your still trying that canadian bull s__t defense.
thanks for the good job keeping us informed
the judge

Anonymous said...

Oh, and by the way, if you CAN'T pay the parking tickets owed, you are 'allowed' to "decrease the debt" by staying in jail. So, there goes your job, apartment, livelihood, and you STILL have to pay to get your car because it is probably impounded by now. On the flip side of this, you may still have to pay "restitution" (a funny word meaning that you pay for the days that you stay in Lehigh County Prison). So, you are STILL in debt when you become a "free man" and if this is not paid off in a certain amount of time, here comes Mr. Constable, AGAIN. And you wonder why people don't shop, live or come to Allentown ? Go figure...

Alfonso Todd

michael molovinsky said...

alfonso, your so correct, the Parking Authority victimizes the residents of Allentown who can least afford it. it's criminal that meters extend out to 10th and chew and that homeowners and tenants need parking permits. unfortunately those with a voice, such as OAPA seem to go along to get along.
Bernie, i'm protesting your off topic policy, I believe older posts have a short shelf life, and the current one is where to be heard, so here's another;
today i noticed nic Zawarski freshened up the signage on the old schoen building, proposed site for loft apartments and a new office building (another parking authority lot) the administration has already extended KOZ and other perks. the schoen building was under the control of aedc, under joyce marin. i heard her say she had never even been in the building, but that's another story.
DEAR JOYCE AND ED, here is a free real estate lesson; there is already too much class A,B, C,D, E, F commercial space available on hamilton street. please give the existing buildings a chance to achieve at least 30% occupancy before increasing the inventory. likewise, there are already too many apartments in allentown. the new lofts at 3th and linden have only rented 10 of 65 units. they are now forced to reduce the existing rents to match the new price offered.

J. SPIKE ROGAN said...

Pistol Pete is famous in Easton.

He also seems to be the first in a burning building every call I have watched.

Anonymous said...

Well, my main concern is that the warrant/constable/imprisonment cycle is not only deterring people from shopping and living in Allentown, but that this is causing many of us residents to go the way of crime because it seems every time we take a step forward, we get pulled back. I don't want to use the "woe is me" excuse, because I feel we need to be responsible for our own actions, but how long do we need to pay for our actions ? And in this case, does the punishment really fit the crime ? Lastly, I will tell you this, there are many people ducking and dodging warrants and it's not because it is an enjoyable thrill, it is simply due to not having the funds. How can a City allow an organization to pro-actively continue to make money or imprison its' residents that are barely getting by on what they have ? Go figure....

Alfonso Todd

Bernie O'Hare said...


As someone who has some form of psychological aversion to paying parking tickets until a constable is pounding on my door, let me explain my experience. Even with a warrant, it is very rare to get arrested.

Most of the time, they send a letter or leave a note at your door. My constable just calls me.

There was only one constable who insisted on arresting me when I had a parking ticket. The magistrate asked him to give me a ride back home after everything was over.

Instead of ducking the constable, go to the magistrate and make payment arrangements. No one can go to jail simply bc he has no money, no matter what they tell you. If you have payment arrangements and circumstances change, go to the magistrate.

The only thing they DON'T like is being played.

Bernie O'Hare said...

To the Judge,

You are one of the many people who keep it together for us crazies. I appreciate what you've done and your very gracious humor.

Anonymous said...

How can you criticize men and women for doing there jobs? While there are some "bad eggs" (as in all jobs), there are some very good constables. Personal attacks are childish and not necessary. Instead of being negative, why not talk about the amount of money they bring to the county (at little cost to the average taxpayer).

Anonymous said...

The only REAL judges are the ones who went to law school. Some of these DJ's never even went to college yet love to be called Judge.
Talk about ego issues.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 2:52, Don't know where you got the idea this was intended as a knock against constables.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 7:29,

I disagree completely. Would you have it any other way?

In my experience, the best DJs have been nonlawyers. They have more commone sense, have a little more compassion and have an understanding that you just don't get in law school. No knock against lawyers-DJs, but they should run for common pleas judge if they weant to be a judge.

i want to be BIG bernie! said...

Bernie your just a fat dumb pig and thats all youll ever be.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Thank you very little.

Anonymous said...

Hello everyone, my name is Frederick Schoenenberger, one of the constables listed in Mr. O'hare's article and point of interest due to the amount of money the county has paid me.

I felt compelled to write and explain some details and specifics in respect to constables and our jobs. Good and bad points.

Yes, it is true we can make a great deal of money, set our own hours and work with little to no supervision. We are trusted to look and act professionally, respect people, obey and follow the law and uphold people's rights and liberties.

I can say with pretty precise certaintity that the constables around here follow these standards. Constables in general do their jobs without notice most of the time.

The only time a constable is brought up usually is when something that the papers feel is bad. I say "feel" because this always isn't the truth and the paper will report what it wants and what it thinks will sell newspapers.

As you can see most of us around here and myself included make what most consider a ton of money.

The average person fails to realize just the amount of people/dockets we arrest or clear to make that kind of money.

For that $131,000 the county paid me I can tell you I made them close or over a million dollars for that. We are making the municipalities, state and county a fortune.

Since our fees are paid for by defendant's or plaintiff's in civil cases we are no cost to the taxpayers. We are really the only self sustained law enforcement that does not derive any money from the tax payers! What county or state office can say that?

Now you say...."What happens if the defendant goes to jail or has no money, who pays you then?? The Taxpayers??"

Well, sorta but not really because the counties have this already planned.....for every docket that is issued or we collect on a $15.50 fee is added to it for the county to go into a fund....this money is then used to pay us if the defendant has no money.

So how big is this "Fund".....Just ask, it's a ton! Just think about all the dockets that clear in the entire county in a year and x that by $15.50!!

Any idea how many dockets I had to clear to make $131,000???? I cleared almost 6k worth!! now multiply that by $15.50??

That's just me, 1 constable!

Ok, so now we cleared that we are not funded by taxes so you say we are still making a ton of money.

Not so fast there buddy!

The office of constable is elected and since we receive no money for our office guess who pays for EVERYTHING?? Ding, Ding, Ding.....We do!! We get no benefits of any kind, no disability, major medical, dental...nothing!! Zilch, nada...nothing!

Again, we have to pay for everything! This means...

My car.....I have gone through 3 in my 6 year term.....can't buy new, it gets killed into the ground in a year or two. The cost just to maintain and service a car is several thousand a year and that does not include gas or insurance. We can't get a new car warranty because we are using the car for commercial purposes and the warranty doesn't cover it. So I have to set aside money to pay for a car "cash" every few years.

Any idea how many miles we put on a car in a year??? Just a hint we could go easily through a new car 36000 mile warranty in a years time.

I spent almost 20k last year on gas and another 3k on maintaining it.

Regular car insurance?? Nope, I wish....we are transporting prisoners and using the car in a business manner, my insurance is 3 times what a normal person would pay in a year.

How bout liability insurances, professional and umbrella?? Yep, tack on a grand or so there a year.

I spend a few thousand on postage a year....I as well as any other constable I know always sends a letter first.

And yes, that's thousands a year on postage!

Now lets talk cell phones, hmmm...just paid my bill 2 days ago....$523.00 a month! This includes 2 phones and a wireless air card. Ok, why 2 phones??

Well, I shut 1 (my primary)off at 10pm otherwise defendants will call at all hours of the night...Yes I field calls well into the evening when most people get home from work...we never really stop working.

The other phone or phone number 2 is on at all times and when it rings it is a police department or communications center.

The wireless card is used in the vehicle for internet and to run people for other warrants.

Ok, now lets talk offices....mine takes my entire basement, I need fax machines, desks for warrants, laser printers. I spend a good thousand every month on supplies.

My internet has to be a business line and is $89.00 a month (I wish $17.99 a month!!). I need a stactic ip address to access Law Enforcement only database skiptracing services which then run me another $425.00 a month just to find people (you don't think they are always at the address on the warrant do you?)

My business overhead just to run my office is a few thousand a month. Heck when gas was creeping close to $5 a gallon I was spending 1600-2000 a month just on gas to drive around!!!

As you can see if you take what I earn and deduct business expenses and ahhh..don't forget uncle sam (taxes), you can now see I earn a modest living.

That is why most constables who earn 6 figures a year would jump to be DJ....the money is more then making those 6 figures because we have to buy everything!

If I was DJ earning 78k a year that would in reality be more then my 131k now.

As for the hours I work 9 hours each day. Sometimes I am up before the crack of dawn to catch the really hard ones who just won't reply no matter what. There are times I am into the night or work night hours as well. I also average 15 - 20 hours of office a week and at the end of the week, if there really is one, I am working about 70 hours a week with this job. Oh, did I forget to mention all the phone calls all the time??

Don't construe this to me griping, I love this job, the freedom and just the profession but I wanted to clarify a few things for most that don't know how it really is.

You see these big paychecks but don't really know what we have to go through to make that kind of money.

Truthfully, most constable do not make what myself or Josh Wagner make because we are workaholics.

I love my job so I don't consider it work, if that makes any sense?

As far as new constables go...go ahead, run, get elected and spend 20 grand on a vehicle and equipment, get all those insurances, shine those shoes and that fresh duty belt and guess what??

You aren't going to get work as a new constable!! That's right, it's not a guarantee that you get work. Nope, around here good luck.

Every judge has a constable and if that constable leaves there is another constable like myself to take over and you can bet the judge isn't going to hire a new guy with no experience or reputation.

So now you wasted all this time (academy...yes 80hrs but now add 40 for firearms and another 30 for intermediate weapons and you've got some time invested) Money and you got no work.

Welcome to being a constable!!

Anonymous said...

And Yes, I do work for several other counties and have other counties that send me work.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Frederick Schoenenberger,

Thank you so much for your detailed description of as day's work. I'll post it as a separate blog entry.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Bernie,