Thursday, May 02, 2013

ET: Deputy Whistleblower Exposed a Flaw

In an excellent editorial today, The Express Times comes to the defense of Deputy Darin Steward, whose leak revealed that Northampton County is not checking listed references on right-to-carry applications.

Steward leaked Northampton County Council candidate Tricia Mezzacappa's LTCF application to West Easton Borough Council President Kelly Gross. He and Gross are long-time friends. Last November, Mezzacappa was convicted of disorderly conduct after a boro hall tirade that included death threats aimed at Gross. The office is now locked and under video surveillance.

On her concealed-carry application, Mezzacappa listed two people as references that she knew would pan her. One is Attorney Richard Orloski, who is representing me in a defamation action against Mezzacappa. The other is Executive John Stoffa, who has been an object of derision to Mezzacappa.

The Express Times makes this plea for Steward:
If Morganelli believes Steward must face criminal sanctions, that’s his call. There may be more to the story than has been reported publicly. But there also appears to be an element of whistleblowing by Steward here, and that should count for something. He should have gone through other channels to report the problems with reference checks — to his immediate superior, for starters. But his action, legal or not, has exposed a flaw in the investigating of gun-permit applicants, and that should be ringing loudly for attention in Harrisburg and all other county seats, not just in Easton.
I understand that it's important not to be seen as playing favorites. But a felony? Ruining this man's career? Isn't the civil process adequate?

The county's seal does include the word "mercy."

59 comments:

Anonymous said...

The way he did it indicates less than honorable intent. This is a serious crime. Public servants who violate public trust are usually dealt with harshly. Morganelli's doing the right thing and should stay the course.

Bernie O'Hare said...

He didn't violate the public trust, but upheld it. There are civil sanctions that can be imposed on him for not following the appropriate channels. The supposed victim of this offense, Mezzacappa, has stated she "forgives" him. I doubt any jury will be convinced he acted criminally.

Anonymous said...

Had he leaked Stoffa's permit application or Charlie Dent's permit application you would clearly have a different view of this situation. Honesty Bernie, because the victim is Mezzacappa you and the Express have decided her privacy is less important and that is bad policy.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I believe that, no matter who the applicant, Deputy Steward did a public service by casting a spotlight on the failure to conduct any meaningful investigation into people who want to carry deadly weapons.

Anonymous said...

So youd feel that way if it was your application that was sent to say Fleck?

Anonymous said...

"legal or not", really? It was illegal. he committed a felony. You are party to a lawsuit and didn't admit it.

The rights of the public to guaranteed confidentiality were arbitrarily deismoisse4d by a law enforcement official.

Guilty guilty and guilty!

Anonymous said...

Mezzacappa is the poster child for WHY we need better background checks for weapon ownership. Unless you live on another planet, her almost daily rantings, vile blog posts, threats, frivolous lawsuits, bankrupties, criminal convictions, etc. (the list could go on), prove her unworthiness to own, and conceal guns. PERIOD!

Anonymous said...

Tricia Mezzacappa threatened to kill one public official and threatened to punch another in the face. Law enforcement decided to charge her with two summary offenses. After a trial, she was convicted of disorderly conduct and sentenced to pay a $200 fine.

Fast forward a few months: the release of a firearms record kept in a government office prompted law enforcement to commence a felony prosecution. Seriously? Threatening to kill and injure is a summary offense but releasing a government record is a felony.

Law enforcement has its priorities backwards.

Anonymous said...

Why is an application for a license to carry concealed firearms a confidential record anyway? The public should be able to find out who is walking around our town, or driving around our roads, in possession of a deadly weapon.

Anonymous said...

The public focus should to be on candidate Mezzacappa. She is the one who made a mockery of the application process by listing two bogus character references. Why did she do that? What does it tell us about her character and fitness to carry a concealed firearm? What does it tell us about her character and fitness to hold public office?

Anonymous said...

This blog is exhibit A on why people feel the need to carry concealed weaponry, here we have a live wire hate blogger seeking to assassinate the character of a local woman over the course of almost 3 years. This volcano of hate has more hot gas than Mt Vesuvius, and people who have dodged the verbal venom start to wonder if the danger will escalate into action.
The deputy should be punished lightly, the real culprit is Kelly Gross who solicited the LTC application and sought to use it as a political hatchet.

Anonymous said...

The deputy could have done it a dozen different ways, all better than the less than honorable way he did. Mezzakkkappa is nutty. But she's no reason to waive the public trust. This was the wrong way. Morganelli should continue to aggressively prosecute. John doesn't take this kind if thing lightly. It's why he's DA for life us he wants. He's doing the right thing.

Anonymous said...

"Live wire hate blogger" and
"volcano of hate" and "more hot gas than Mt Vesuvius" and "verbal venom" sounds an awful lot like the rantings of one Tricia Mezzacappa. Why did you list two bogus references on your application, Trish? Please explain.

Anonymous said...

The references were far from "bogus" dipshit, bogus would be fictional people listed as references. What basis would Stoffa or Orloski have to suggest Mezzacappa was unfit for approval of LTC approval? Just because the two people listed aren't her best buds doesn't mean they would say she is a danger to the public.

Anonymous said...

You people really need a life You act as if this Deputy is the 1st lawenforcement person to do something outside the law HELL bss the Sherfiff of nottingham is an old pro at this kind of thing...this Deputy should be given a medal not prosecuted

Anonymous said...

Morganelli take these things serious...what a laugh why don't you sit at his house one night and wait for him to come home...see how serious he takes drinking and driving!!!

Kevin C. said...

If this guy is a true whistle blower, wouldn't he have gone to the press or perhaps some appropriate government entity (State AG, District Attorney, judge, State Police)? The President of the West Easton Borough Council is a curious choice which may lead a reasonable person to conclude that he had an anterior motive.

I'm not sure if criminal charges will stick, but it would appear that this guy has put his job in jeopardy.

Anonymous said...

@3:25 PM, calling me names doesn't change the fact that both references recently told law enforcement that Mezzacappa should not have been issued a LTCF.

Anonymous said...

Kevin, at 3:39 PM: My understanding is there were numerous complaints to law enforcement regarding the threat that Mezzacappa and her guns posed to specific individuals and to public safety in general. Some complaints came from O'Hare and attorney Orloski, the same person she listed as a character reference. Some complaints came from West Easton Borough's mayor, council and their solicitor. County Executive Stoffa and Sheriff Miller received these complaints. Also receiving complaints were Easton Police Chief Scalzo and DA Morganelli.

Anonymous said...

what is an "anterior" motive Kevin?

Anonymous said...

A "whistleblower" would have written an editorial about the ISSUE without disclosing confidential information. This guy was caught disclosing confidential information, and is trying to hide behind the whistleblower law.

His actions were not accidental, and he should be prosecuted and convicted to the greatest extent allowed by the law.

He is EXACTLY the reason why so many were against an expansion of background checks for gun purchases, and has actually managed to set that (unrelated) issue back as a result of his actions.

Anonymous said...

11:50 - what does a bankruptcy have to do with a concealed carry permit?

Bernie O'Hare said...

Kevin, Prior to Deptuty Steward's disclosure, numerous efforts were made to have Mezzacappa's LTFC revoked. Once Orloski and Stoffa became aware they had been listed as references, it is my understanding they complained. Although I do not have record confirmation, I believe the Sheriff did decide to revoke her license. So what Deputy Steward did worked. He is friendly with Kelly Gross and I believe he may have been concerned for her personal safety. But this is just guesswork on my part. He certainly could and should have pursued other avenues, but I just don't see any criminal purpose here. I understand that the DA has to prosecute, but really can't see a jury convicting him of a felony.

Anonymous said...

Concerned for her safety-that's bs.
She asked him to pull Mezzacappa's
LTCF; he could have said no because its illegal!!

Anonymous said...

Has anyone read The Express Times dated April 21, 2013??? Per a Pennsylvania Police Captain who oversees the state's firearms background data base says it is up to the individual sheriffs and counties to determine whether reference checks are necessary. Sheriff Miller did nothing wrong. Deputy Steward on the other hand did something illegal. I cannot believe that people are still thinking he his some kind of hero. He illegally removed a confidential document from the office and gave it to Kelly Gross, who obviously has had issues in the past with Mezzaccappa. Sounds kind of personal to me.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Concerned for her safety-that's bs."

Excuse me? Mezzacappa threatened to kill Gross; has posted numerous death fantasies about putting hollow point bullets thru people's skulls, including mine; prepared a disturbing video about shooting people with a coffin and a west easton boro webpage image; has brandished her weapon at numerous places, from Giant to a tea party meeting; has complained, on her own blog, that she should have assaulted Gross; and has made menacing remarks to my attorney, threatening to knock him over.

The real question is not whether Mezzacappa should be issued a LTCF, but whether she should be committed. She has impulse control problems, and is a menace to public safety.

Anonymous said...

Deputy Steward made a mistake and immediately owned up to it. Ignorance of the law is not a defense has been said over and over. I agree, I do not believe Steward knew he was committing a crime. However, now the Sheriff's Department contacts references on the order of Stoffa. And how these references are contacted should be looked at by the DA. Overheard in the office are clerks calling a reference and asking, "John Doe has applied for a carry permit and do you know of any reasons why John Doe should not carry a gun?" Standard questionaire used by all the clerks. PA Title 18 Section 6111, Subsection (i) Confidentiality states that an applicant's name or identity shall be confidential and not subject to public disclosure. I paraphrased, but look it up. Although it falls under the transfer of firearms section, the language specifically references information on a LTC application in general. Somewhat confusing, but straightforward. I am not a lawyer, but it appears this law is being broken. Hopefully the DA comes down as hard on these folks as he did Deputy Steward.

Anonymous said...

Who cares.

Bernie O'Hare said...

The 27 comments preceding yours answers that question.

Anonymous said...

Who is paying attorney Joshua Price to go around and sue or threaten to sue counties and county executives if they want to perform background checks? In today's day and age, that law (if it really is a law) needs to be changed and background checks need to be followed up on and followed through. Plain and simple.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Anon 10:55 AM

Anonymous said...

While character references are included on the license-to-carry-firearms application, Pennsylvania state law does not specifically require the practice. Instead, the law mandates that sheriff's departments check an applicants criminal history, mental health and relevant protection-from-abuse orders. Why is everyone still defending Darin? Again, the Sheriff's Department did NOTHING wrong.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"I agree with Anon 10:55 AM"

That's bc you are Anon 10:55.

Bernie O'Hare said...

" Instead, the law mandates that sheriff's departments check an applicants criminal history, mental health and relevant protection-from-abuse orders."

Actually, the law requires a bit more than that. The Sheriff must also investigate whether investigate whether "the applicant's character and reputation are such that the applicant will not be likely to act in a manner dangerous to public safety." 18 Pa.C.S. Section 6109(d)(3). You left that little requirement out of your analysis bc it is inconvenient to the point you wish to make. Try arguing honestly.

Since the Sheriff is required to conduct this investigation, it would make sense to check references.

A Deputy who points out this deficiency is doing his job, which is something the office he works for is not doing.

Anonymous said...

Sheriff Miller is only concerned with the public image of his department and nothing more. Policy violations are ignored which would require action on his behalf that would tarnish his political aka public image. For every policy this deputy broke, there is at least one that is not followed by the Sheriff. You may like the Sheriff Bernie, but this entire fiasco is aimed at one thing- the Sheriff upholding his image to the public. Ask any deputy about their recent "fireside chats" with the Sheriff and you will be told the majority of time was spent listening to the Sheriff brag about his past acomplishments. He cares little about the individual deputy, and his treatment of Steward exemplfies this.

Anonymous said...

A sheriff who sends confidential information to an old girlfriend that has nothing to do with the law, that is a felony. He must be prosecuted as he abused the power and privilege of his badge and position.

The Da has no choice or he is not doing his job and tarnishing law enforcement everywhere.

Anonymous said...

BOH-2:11 PM-I was quoting what was published in the Express Times. You seem to think what they publish is all truth so I thought so too. I guess the Express Times got it wrong. Maybe you should contact them and make sure they're being "honest".

Bernie O'Hare said...

First, I do not look at the ET to determine the law. I look at the law. Second, I doubt that the ET limited itself the way you did. Third, the ET and even I try to inform, while you try to disinform.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"A sheriff who sends confidential information to an old girlfriend"

For someone who has "forgiven" this Deputy, you're acting awful strangely, MezzaKKKappa. First, the information wasn't confidential bc you blabbed about it everywhere, including various emails. Second, Kelly G was a friend, not a GF, of Deputy Steward. Third, she was being victimized by you, and Deputy Steward hd every reason to be concerned about her personal safety.

If this goes to a jury, there is no way Steward gets convicted. I understand the DA can't appear to be playing favorites, but he will lose this case if it goes to trial.

Anonymous said...

A Pennsylvania State Police captain who oversees the state’s firearms background database says it is up to individual sheriffs and counties to determine whether reference checks are necessary for license-to-carry-concealed-firearm permit applications.

Multiple sheriffs’ departments throughout Pennsylvania, including those in Lehigh, Northampton and Bucks counties, have regularly skipped checking character references over the past year due to a sharp increase in the number of applications, those sheriffs said.

The matter came to the forefront in recent weeks after a 2012 application from Northampton County Council candidate Tricia Mezzacappa, of West Easton, was illegally leaked from the sheriff’s office.

The references listed on the form were never contacted by the sheriff’s office and those named — county Executive John Stoffa and South Whitehall Township-based lawyer Richard Orloski Sr. — have since said they would not have recommended permitting her to carry a concealed firearm.

On Thursday, Deputy Sheriff Darin Steward, who heads the deputies’ union, was charged with leaking the document to West Easton Borough Council President Kelly Gross.

Capt. Scott Price, director of the state police’s operational records division, said sheriffs’ departments are legally obligated to conduct criminal, mental health and protection-from-abuse checks when determining if a license-to-carry applicant should be approved. That task is accomplished by calling state police to access the Pennsylvania Instant Check System, or PICS, and providing the individual’s private information.

Under the law, sheriffs are also charged with investigating an applicant’s character and reputation to make sure they are not likely to endanger the public. While character references are included on the applications, they are not specifically required under the law, unlike the information required via the PICS check, Price said. Without that specific mandate, it becomes unclear whether reference checks need to be conducted, he said.

“It’s ambiguous,” Price said. “The sheriffs have some latitude in issuing licenses to carry firearms.”
This is exactly what was in the ET dated April 25. I copied and pasted exactly what was published. Im not limiting anything, Im repeating what the ET published.

Anonymous said...

And you know for a fact that Kelly Gross was not an old girlfriend???
Its amazing to me how much you seem to think you know.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Yes, and if you actually bother to read what is written, the article clearly states that "[u|nder the law, sheriffs are also charged with investigating an applicant’s character and reputation to make sure they are not likely to endanger the public."

So your summation was dishonest.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"And you know for a fact that Kelly Gross was not an old girlfriend???"

Let me clue you in. You seem to be under the impression that this is not America. In thos country, when you accuse someone of a crime, it is up to the state to provide the proof, and beyond a reasonable doubt. The Defendant is under no obligation to prove anything, let alone a negative. And I certainly am not going to make the mistake of providing you information you have no right to possess. It's confidential, and you won't find emails about it the way emails exist about MezzaKKKappa's application for a LTCF.

Anonymous said...

Under the law, sheriffs are also charged with investigating an applicant’s character and reputation to make sure they are not likely to endanger the public. While character references are included on the applications, they are not specifically required under the law, unlike the information required via the PICS check, Price said. Without that specific mandate, it becomes unclear whether reference checks need to be conducted, he said.
AM I MISSING SOMETHING??? THEY ARE NOT SPECIFICALLY REQUIRED UNDER THE LAW!!! Im no lawyer but I think that means the Sheriff is not required to do them.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Your initial point was that all a Sheriff had to do was check criminal history, mental health and relevant PFA orders. That is incomplete, and you had to know that. The Sheriff is ALSO required to er investigate whether "the applicant's character and reputation are such that the applicant will not be likely to act in a manner dangerous to public safety." 18 Pa.C.S. Section 6109(d)(3). This is the second time I have to point this out.

An investigation into character and reputation can certainly include reference checks, as well as knocking on your next door neighbor's door or even calling your employer.

Anonymous said...

By supplying the names of two character references the applicant for a LTCF is consenting to a limited waiver of confidentiality with regard to these references. This limited waiver would mean checking the references is legal. There has to be a "public safety" exception to confidentiality or the law becomes an absurdity.

Anonymous said...

The only question is "did he break the law". Did he intend to break the law? Yes, yes, yes. Not interested in his excuses, he didn't follow any logical progression of reporting. He is guilty of a felony. Any restorable jury will find him so.

As a juror, I find him guilty.

Your overly emotional connection to this issue shows why it is good you are no longer an attorney.

As to references. Not sure about Orloski but many people know about the Mezzacappa/Stoffa emails, so she had no reason to think he would say something negative.

He will surely be embarrassed at the least.

Anonymous said...

While character references are included on the applications, they are not specifically required under the law, unlike the information required via the PICS check, Price said. Without that specific mandate, it becomes unclear whether reference checks need to be conducted, he said.
You keep "pointing out" that they are required; but this, straight from ET says otherwise. If Captain Scott Price says the above statement how, in your world can they be required?

Bernie O'Hare said...

What I pointed out is that the Sheriff is supposed to investigate the character and reputation of the applicant. That certainly can include reference checks.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"The only question is "did he break the law". Did he intend to break the law? Yes, yes, yes. Not interested in his excuses,"

His intent was to uphold the public trust by showing a serious deficiency in the Sheriff's office. They have not been investigating the character and reputation of applicants, though they are statutorily required to do so. While I agree that he could have tried to do this some other way, I believe that, thanks to him, Mezzacappa's LTCF was finally revoked. Morover, there was no confidentiality. Mezzacapa had breached that herself, by sending an email asking about her application, before it was granted, with ccs to numerous people. Copies found their way to me. So maybe she should be prosecuted, using your logic.

Anonymous said...

It's obvious you know nothing about Steward's many romantic conquests or his character. Ask his ex wife why they are divorced to get the true background on he & Gross. To believe he had no idea what he was doing was illegal is ludicrous, he has been in law enforcement for over 20 years. He chose to be ignorant about this particular subject.

Anonymous said...

You can't say for sure what Steward's true intent was only he knows for sure. His concern was for Gross and Gross only because he didn't bother looking at any other applications. Mezzacappa is a loon who eventually hung herself as she was charged with criminal harassment right about the time Steward went on his fishing expedition. Should he be charged with a felony? I don't think so but morally he used his position to get info the public shouldn't be privy to and for that trusting him again will be very difficult. It's a shame he didn't go about this a different way because his career is probably over.

Anonymous said...

He broke the law. O'Hare's legal opinion is as valid as his license to practice law. A law enforcement officer with access to sensitive confidential personal information betrayed the publics right of confidentially to leak information to an old woman friend.

His actions only fuel the argument of people who fight a national gun registry, a she is an example of the abuse of such a system.

He did not go through any channels, he is not a "whistleblower'", as that defense will be shot down in two minutes. He is a criminal and not only will he lose his job, he will be convicted of a felony.

Anyone who conspired with him should also be charged. When you ignore the law to go on a personal witch-hunt, you are no longer to be trusted to uphold the law.

The hatred of this woman is no excuse for breaking the law by those entrusted to enforce it.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Fortunately, this case will be decided by s jury and the prosecution will have to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. Neither Mezzacappa, her Blog Mentor, the Fake Rev or a jealous sergeant with a Napoleonic complex will be members of this jury. But if Darrin is as good with the ladies as claimed by the jealous deputy, I'm sure his lawyer will try to pack the jury with fair maidens. Let's see how quick they are to convict someone who was protecting a damsel in distress from the Wicked Witch of West Easton.

Anonymous said...

Jealous sergeant?? First, you act as though you're friends with him or work with him to know enough about him to make such a remark. Neither of which I know for a fact is true. You are NOT friends with him and you DO NOT work with him. Second, Darin's actions are his and his alone(aside from those who conspired with him, that will all come out soon enough); he only has himself to blame. Not Mezzacappa, the sergeant, etc.

Bernie O'Hare said...

No I am not friends with the jealous sergeant. Nor are many others.

Anonymous said...

You can delete the comments about the saucy emails between Ms. Mezzacappa and Stoffa all you want. the truth is being published on the Saving Private
Gracedale blog. You never know what will happen when you write about hot red shoes.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Yawn. Who cares? Someone asks which pair of shoes is better. Who cares?

Anonymous said...

He cared enough to tell her how he feels when he sees them. Hmmm, oh boy!