Monday, December 31, 2012
Butterfly House Applicant Bounces $16k Check
Two years ago, Northampton County Council nearly gave $50,000 from its slush fund (they call it a contingency fund) for the "Butterfly House." Anne Houston dreamed up this idea of a halfway house for single women just released from prison. I guess they're still caterpillars then, but as a result of living with Anne Houston, they turn into beautiful butterflies, spreading happiness and joy all over the Lehigh Valley.
But not everybody likes butterflies. Ron Angle, miserable bastard that he is, was still on Council at the time. He voted No, and got out his butterfly net. Turns out that, contrary to what Houston had been telling everyone, she had no lease, no non-profit and no board of directors. What she did have was $100,000 in judgments. And if anyone needed a halfway house, it was Houston. She had just been evicted from a friend's home in Forks Township.
Houston was relying on her connections to get the dough. Her family socialized with Council member Bruce Gilbert, who vouched for the Butterfly House, rating it "squeaky clean." More importantly, she's a daughter of former District Attorney Charlie Spaziani, and has relatives and friends all over the courthouse and at the jail.
Executive John Stoffa, not one of those friends or relatives, held up payment until Council could reverse itself at its next meeting. The day after my story broke, Houston called to tell me she had a new "wonderful opportunity" out of the area, and was giving up on the Butterfly House.
She did not go very far.
At that time, she owed $16,000 to Mary Lou Lordi. Her friend began pressing her for the money, especially after both she and her husband were laid off. So Houston gave her a check, which promptly bounced. After one and a half years of getting a song and dance, Lordi filed a private criminal complaint, with the approval of DA John Morganelli. At a preliminary hearing on the day after Christmas, District Judge Jacqueline M. Taschner found there was enough evidence to send the case to Northampton County Court. "This is not how you treat a friend," Judge Taschner told Houston. The judge also set bail at $20,000.
According to Lordi, Anne's "a good person. She can be a very warm and very kind person. But I feel I don't have any other recourse."
According to some sources, Houston still does some kind of work at the jail, although it's unclear whether she is a volunteer or is being paid directly or through some grant. I'll confirm that sometime in the next week.
Like Anne, I am also the son of a former DA. I ran into problems of my own. Perhaps she and I should form a club or something. I'll ask County Council for a grant.
If there's one thing County Council does not need, it's a contingency fund.