Friday, December 28, 2012
Upper Mount Bethel: The Wild West of Northampton County
With advances in technology, cable service into the Slate Belt has improved. So more people are watching TV or playing scrabble on their iPhones these days. But meetings are still pretty heated, if only because Upper Mount Bethel is where the Northampton County Bulldog, Ron Angle, is kenneled.
He called me late yesterday to tell me there'd be a barn burner at last night's meeting. So I decided to go.
What Angle failed to tell me is that Route 512, the road I use to get there, is closed. And naturally, I got lost along Upper Mount Bethel's dark country roads. When I finally made it to the meeting, it was nearly over. Supervisors were in Executive session after having adopted a budget next year that includes an 8.5% tax hike.
That alone is pretty unusual in a township.
Anyhoo, as I was walking in, I could see Supervisor Jerry Geake, who also happens to be the Township's roadmaster, sitting by his lonesome. He was excluded from the executive session, too.
When Supervisors reconvened, Solicitor Ron Karasek at first stated they had met in private to discuss a grievance filed by Township employees about poor treatment. Apparently, there is friction between township employees and Manager Maureen Sterner. Angle stated that morale is at an all-time low, and Chairman Judy Henckel, though red-faced, agreed.
But there was more to the executive session than that grievance. They also discussed a sexual discrimination complaint filed by an employee against a Township Supervisor. Since Geake was sitting alone during that session, it's apparent that he is the target.
In 2011, Geake was sentenced to a week in the can after pleading guilty to drunk driving as a second offense. So the Township's roadmaster lost his license to drive. Having a sense of humor, voters re-elected him.
Supervisors apparently agreed to pay Geake's legal fees over a dispute with Ed Nelson, who opposed him in last year's race and lost by 18 votes. I question whether the Township has the right to pay legal fees incurred by someone defending his personal right to hold a public office.
Geake then went on to hire a female employee who has no CDL and no license to operate any Township equipment. It is believed she is the one who filed the complaint.
In addition to the tax hike and sexual harassment complaint, Supervisors were prodded by Angle about a state investigation. They denied that the Attorney General is involved, but Supervisor Larry Hallett acknowledged that the Auditor General is up to something.
I noticed some good reporters from The Express Times and WFMZ at the meeting. They know where to find the red meat.