Friday, September 18, 2009

McClure: Stoffa Operates in "Shroud of Secrecy"

When Bethlehem Township zoners were slamming the table and tossing papers during the discussion of a proposed treatment and work release center on Wenesday night, Council member John Cusick was quietly sitting in the audience. Even County Council candidate Walt Garvin was there. Now Lamont McClure's District includes Bethlehem Township. In fact, he lives there. But he was nowhere to be found as zoning mavens squirmed to find some way, any way, to keep dastardly drunk drivers from serving their sentences at a facility located anywhere inside their municipal boundaries. Let Easton deal with it.

McClure made up for his absence at last night's meeting of Northampton County Council. He had no problem accusing the Stoffa administration of operating in a "shroud of secrecy."

"We're not being given the price tag because the price tag is going to far outstrip anything that we're currently doing in addition to the needs we have." Council Prez Ann McHale gravely and knowingly added, "Right concept, wrong location."

McClure apparently thinks County Executive John Stoffa should have a lease with Abe Atiyeh, who has an option but does not even own the property being considered. Ron Angle tried to explain things. "He wants to know, is this doable, before he enters into an agreement. ... He's not going to play his cards 'till he sees what's available."

But McClure remained adamant. "We need to start getting numbers. ... It's a huge undertaking."

McClure: "You will not come clean with the public as to what it is the cost will be."

Stoffa: "Mr. McClure, you want to get figures when the figures don't exist, when the site hasn't been acquired, when we don't know what zoning would approve. You want me to come in with figures and then you can criticize us for being low or high or not being accurate. I'm not a fool. Don't take me for one."

McClure: "So you're not giving us figures because you don't want to be criticized."

At this point, Stoffa walked back to his seat while an exasperated Angle told McClure "He can't give you what he doesn't have."

I could understand asking Stoffa to execute a memorandum of lease. But are terms like "shroud of secrecy" and "not coming clean with the public" really necessary? Those verbal grenades are intended to suggest Stoffa is doing something underhanded or possibly corrupt. McClure certainly has an obligation to act as a check and balance on the County Executive, but he also has an obligation to respect the office. Stoffa makes it a point to attend every council meeting, and usually has most of his cabinet on hand. That's a demonstration of respect to the legislative branch. Is it so hard to reciprocate?

Had McClure actually attended the zoning hearing in his own township on Wednesday night, he could have seen Stoffa explain that he has no intention of asking Council to commit to a project until he is certain that it can be done, and on terms favorable to the taxpayer. He would also know that this move may actually cost the county nothing at all. During a break, administration officials told me they expect to realize significant savings in personnel and utilities when they close the old, Civil War era, jail. That may completely offset the cost of operating a new treatment and work release center.

Maybe McClure should do his homework before making wild allegations.

46 comments:

Anonymous said...

What a moron McClure is.

Anonymous said...

McClure is right. Stoffa is stonewalling. angle is a bigger hypocrite than ohare. he showed his patience and respect for the County Executive when he viciously attacked Reibman everyday.

Angle even tried it with the Courts but Freeberg pinned the puppies ears back.

McClure is doing his job. Why not ask Stoffa to do his. While you are at it ask angle not to be the hypocrite he turned out to be.

Anonymous said...

so we have no pro forma in hand but we are spending time and money advocating the construction? with no pro forma, how do we know that the developer won't get the approvals from the zhb and then turn around and say, well, i need a HUGE subsidy from the county to make this happen before I can even rent it to you. We don't even know how much money has been spent in lawyer costs by the county to get to this point.

I doubt the developer lacks a pro forma. I'm stunned Stoffa would neglect his due diligence so carelessly and fail to demand the preliminary numbers before going to testify about the project. Either he's being neglegant or he's being a fool. Either way, it's bad government. If anybody else was acting this way, you would have teed off on them and rightly so.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

God Bless Lamont McClure.

Carol said...

Bernie, what is the cost of maintaining a prisoner per year in NCP as to the cost of maintaining an individual per year in the Prisoner Work Release Center (or whatever it should be called), this is a political NIMBY problem, what is the rental fee for the county per year, the numbers cost would be my decision maker, these are not hardened criminals, Carol

Bernie O'Hare said...

Carol, Those costs are being determined, but it appears that the county will realize big savinds when it is able to close the old wing of the jail. Once I have those figures, I'll publish them.

Anonymous said...

Gridlock is a blessing with this bunch. They're don't seem very smart or trustworthy. Let's talk after November.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Anonymous 3:52 AM, Angle has always been a self serving hypocrite, stir the pot but never a finished product

Anonymous said...
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Dave said...

Bernie..it's around $40 per day best guess but that is not the driving force here. The Old Prison is a liability and law suit waiting to happen..Mersa..unrepairable infrastructure problems..how long can they stave off the state inspectors? They have to vacate and rebuild on site or in Nazareth as I see it. Options are limited and all very expensive.

lighthouse said...

I have been critical of McClure at times, but I must ask, what is wrong with asking questions that involve tax payer monies? Isn't that his due deligence?

Using Dave's (2:55) numbers, $40 x 365 days x 300 beds equals $4,380,000 per year.

In the 4-2-09 Council minutes, "Mr. McClure stated he had done some research which revealed over the last ten years, the County had spent a little less than $3 million sending prisoners out to other prisons when there was overcrowding. He further stated a 300-bed facility in Bethlehem Township would cost more than that annually."

And, to add to your dialog, at the public hearing before Bethlehem Township earlier this month for a curative zoning amendment, Mr. Atiyeh is also proposing a 1,000-bed private prison at the same site within the same footprint.

I am not taking any position pro or con here on either the proposed "treatment center" or "prison." However, I have to say that McClure, the rest of Council, and the taxpayers should have a grasp of what the cost-benefits are going to be. I would go further and state that it would be beneficial to know what those cost-benefits have been to go in with Lehigh County in a joint venture. I was not at your quoted meeting, so I only know the context of McClure's comments from this blog. However, I don't understand what the heartburn is in his asking the question.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Lighthouse, Nothing wrong with his question. I noted that myself. But there's plenty wrong in accusing Stoffa of wearing a shroud odf scerecy and not coming clean. There are lots of negative connotations there.

Anonymous said...

Bernie, Councilman McClure is unable to get any concrete numbers. But, maybe Stoffa will give them to you.

Anonymous said...

has mcclure asked for the numbers? yes. has stoffa asked for the numbers? that isn't clear. If mcclure has asked and stoffa hasn't asked, then the accusation stands: stoffa is allowing this project to be planned without full disclosure of numbers to date. in my mind, and i think in the minds of most good government folks, that is operating in secrecy. it is a reasonable accusation. you may not like it, but a reasonable person can make the accusation.

and if stoffa doesn't have the numbers, why isn't he demanding them before going to bat on this project?

Anonymous said...

"During a break, administration officials told me they expect to realize significant savings in personnel and utilities when they close the old, Civil War era, jail."

it sounds like there are numbers. if they are making claims like this, why aren't they made in a council meeting. sorry, but the disclosure of this info to you during a break and a township zoning hearing doesn't constitute disclosure. the break during a township zoning hearing, is not the place for mcclure to do his homework either. breaks are the places where backroom deals are made.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Alyhough I suspect you kow this, we are talking about two different things. LaMont McClure wants the costs for the treatment center, but they don't exist and won't exist until a lease is negotiated. The admin officials were talking about the savings that will be realized from closing the older, civli war era, jail. There will be big savings when that happens.

Now if a mere citizen could learn this so can Counciklman McClure. But he has to do his homework. Instead, he'd prefer to lob a few grenades and ridiculously challenge one of the most ethical and honest people I've ever met.

If he wanted to question Stoffa, that would be fine. I would actually respect that. But his goal is to embarrass Stoffa, so he tosses a few grenades. That's why I tell Jerry every time I see him that he needs to run when McClure's seat is up. Now Jerry gets to see it for himself.

Anonymous said...

you want the guy out of office b/c he embarasses stoffa. its the same huffy response that stoffa made when he went and sat down.

blaming mcclure for not having the figures b/c he "didn't do his homework" is a weak attempt to shift the blame from stoffa who failed to develop a budget for this project. I'm sorry, but developing a couple of framework budgets is not difficult to do. And since the county executive has access to all of this information, it is reasonable for him to put it out for county council to review, even if it is for developmental purposes.

My guess is that Don Cunningham would not be holding back in preparing a few preliminary budgets on this matter. and if he did, you better believe that browning and daugherty would be chomping at the bit to have the information provided to them so they can start sifting through the data and understanding where this is going or how it could be improved. that's how it should work, but stoffa is flubbing this one big time. i want mcclure to "get with it" or buzz off as much as you do, but he's in the right here and unfortunately, confrontation is the only approach that seems to be getting stoffa's attention. maybe it will light a fire under his butt to get serious about these numbers.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I have repeatedly said i have no problem w/ McClure asking questions, but do have a problem with the aspersions that McClure cast. He did more than embarrass Stoffa. He challenged his integrity. He can be that way if he wants, but that's why he almost lost against an unknown with no money. people see that and do not appreciate it.

Anonymous said...

When Angle attacked Reibman for not having the costs of each lock for doors that didn't even exist in the unbuilt Courthouse you cheered the maniac on. Now that your mancrush Stoffa has no costs(anyone in governemtn knows he has estimates) and everything is a habdshake, well I think you are really stretching it thin.

McClue is doiny the job Angle used to do and you know exactly what that is and so does Angle.

not so casual observer said...

Part of my thought on the treatment center is that it keeps first time offenders away from the really hardened inmmates and they stand a lower chance of recidivism. It also means that rturning veterans who act up and act out are treated as the PTSD cases they as opposed to criminal element.

Anonymous said...

Somebody remind McClure that he's not up for re-election this year. He can go back to sleep.

Anonymous said...

Why is the County Executive not providing concrete numbers. He already has the numbers worked out in his handshake agreement with Atiyeh. Atiyeh already knows what the deal is, so how come the taxpayers are not entitled to know.

Anonymous said...

Same old, same old. McClure is right on. The prison issue has been going on for years and here we are with nothing. Is the next phase of the prison plan being implemented? Probably not. I am sorry, but Stoffa is not doing his job. He freezes Council out of the process and then when the questions get difficult people jump all over McClure. Who is watching out for the taxpayers? Not Stoffa. How many times has he done things against the Charter or Administrative Code? He needs to be gone and it is a shame the voters don't get it. I hope Council keeps right on asking hard questions.

Anonymous said...

so your beer is that mcclure isn't asking nicely and is being mean? ron angle is a brash jerk on so many occassions and you practically worship the ground he walks on b/c of his intent.

Please, spear us the righteous indignation. When Ron does it, you love it. When McClure shows you he's not the incompetent boob you make him out to be, you get pissed.

Your credibility has taken a wacking the last couple of weeks Bernie as your double standards have been truly given the sunshine that they deserved.

Anonymous said...

sorry, that should have been beef, not beer in the first sentence.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Why is the County Executive not providing concrete numbers. He already has the numbers worked out in his handshake agreement with Atiyeh. Atiyeh already knows what the deal is, so how come the taxpayers are not entitled to know."

Actually, he does not. That's what he's been saying. Are you calling Stoffa a liar?

Bernie O'Hare said...

" people jump all over McClure. Who is watching out for the taxpayers? Not Stoffa"

I see. McClure nearly forced the county to accept a bid for IT services that was $1.8MM higher than the one ultimately negotiated. That's no friend to taxpayers.

He illegally took it upon himself to fire the county council solicitor, against the wishes of a majority. That's no friend to taxpayers.

He has played sweetheart o a union that acted like a lynch mob and tried to replace county workers with others that are more union friendly. That's no friend to taxpayers.

He hAS encouraged deputy sheriffs to complain about not getting overtime for coverage at football games. That's no friend to taxpayers.

Shall I go on? I can.

lighthouse said...

Love him or hate him, Mr. Atiyeh is a businessman and is approaching this as a profitable venture...if not this, then a prison. So if the man who "knows the numbers" well enough to know he can make money, why doesn't the County (who will be spending our money) have any clue? Just stumble along and pay whatever is asked for? I supported Mr. Stoffa in the spring because of his supposed "fiscal responsibility", but I am sorry, the way this is being presented on LVR is that Mr. Stoffa has absolutely no clue as to dollar amounts but is willing to go through the public fight for his vision without even knowing if its feasible. For the good of the County, I really hope that perception is wrong. However, if it is wrong, then logic would indicate he isn't providing all the numbers.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Stoffa should NOT agree on numbers until he knows (a) that he has a treatment center; and (b) what kind of restrictions are beig impsed. For examle, if BT comes back and says he needs 700 guards and floodlights, he'll walk away. If Atiyeh is unreasonable, he'll walk away. Atiyeh is the one taking a chance, which is why he only has an option on and does not own the real estate.

Anonymous said...

The rough numbers exist and County Council has a right to see them. This is not about Stoffa. If it was another Executive, you and Angle would be screaming bloody murder. Like the Phillips case you cherrypick the truth.

I agree with the other poster about McClure doing the job Angle won't do because of Stoffa. I don't care much for McClure and we don't need a history lesson on his past.

This is about the here and now and Stoffa has a responsibility to turn over the information that he has.

Bernie O'Hare said...

The rough numbers do not exist and Stoffa. Stoffa already has claimed that. Are you calling him a liar?

Anonymous said...

If the numbers don't exist Stoffa is incompetent. If they do exist, HE is a liar!

This isn't like buying a pumpkin. There has to be a cost estimate for this involved and costly endeavor at this point, if not who the Hell is minding the store. I understand you and and the MSM have and will continue to give Stoffa a pass but that doesn't make it right.

Stay on this one county Council.

Anonymous said...

Id like to see the numbers over a 10 to 15 year period. What would it cost the County to own and maintain such a facility vs what it would cost to outsource. You have to look at the long term costs not just a snap shot.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Those numbers will have to be seen and approved by county council. Stoffa is not going to enter into a lease w/o their OK. He can't. And when you're looking over those figures, compare them to what the county will be saving by closing the old jail.

Dave said...

Keep in mind that the proposed work release/treatment center will only reduce the Easton location by 300 inmates. That leaves 500 still there. The recent addition only holds at most 300. Projections say we will need at least 1200 total beds down the line. You still have to build another prison somewhere. And it will cost a ton above and beyond the Beth. Twsp. building expenses. The old jail must be razed! How do we proceed? The Gracedale option? We own the land and there is a lot of it. All it costs is tons of money..taxpayer money.

Anonymous said...

IF the County Executive's ultimate plan is to move the prison to Gracedale, then the Treatment Center/Work Release facility does not need to be built. Logic dictates that treatment can be accomplished in a new state of the art 21st century facility.

Anonymous said...

Lamont is an incompetent idiot He hardly attends any committee meetings and is never prepared. He wont vote to approve a budget yet he`ll spend taxpayer`s money even when the department head didnt ask for it,like the hundred thousand he spent for a detective for his buddy Morganelli who was gonna arrest the thousands of child porn addicts we have in northampton county .Have any arrests been made ? Great finace committee chair as well ...the committtee never meets. He is a great addition to an incompetent lot

Anonymous said...

Thank God for Lamon; at least the damage he does in this world is contained to County Council.

Anonymous said...

Lamont McClure is doing the tough work the neutered pussycat Angle used to do. Now the Angles boy Stoffa is in office Angle just shows up.

Angle screams about problems that should be funded, core services, yet he never voted for the money to do those things.

LaMont is asking the questions on this entire project that must be asked. The famous Stoffa stubborness is his business but when it comes to taxpayer money I don't care if Angle, ohare and Stoffa live together, questions must be asked.

Yhis is either being kept secret or Stoffa is making it up as he goes along. The above posters make some great points. This should be part of an overall plan. If the plann is a facility at Gracedale this is somewhat silly.

Stoffa was never a very good administrator and after four years now that he has to actually plan something it is showing.

I don't vote for the Dem's but I appreciate McClure's questions. It is more than Angle and the other paper tiger Republicans on Council are asking.

Anonymous said...

Stoffa has a dream to borrow and spend more money than Reibman. It won't happen.

Anonymous said...

"The rough numbers do not exist and Stoffa. Stoffa already has claimed that. Are you calling him a liar?'

yes and since one of his cabinet members told you there are potential savings, you are ignoring the existence of those rough numbers. bernie, wake up! stoffa is starting to act like reibmann.

Anonymous said...

Of course some numbers exist. Stoffa is stonewalling for some reason. He is probably afraid the opponenets of this sceme will have a point regarding cost/benefit.

In the old days angle screamed for numbers when the Courthouse wasn't even a full plan on paper. he would scream,"crooks", and ohare would yap in approval. Now their boy is in and they are quiet little mice.

Thank God McClure is asking the right questions and shame on Stoffa and the Council Republicans for caving on this issue.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Stoffa has been about as clear as he can be. There are no numbers. I'm sure he has a figure he'd like to pay, but publicly revealing that would put him in a bad bargaining position. He also has no idea what types of restrictions will be imposerd. But there is little point discussing this w/ people who call him a liar.

Anonymous said...

Stoffa is ready to close on a multi-million dollar operation and absolutely no numbers exist in any form.

Yeah right, I don't think anyone needs to "call" Stoffa a liar.