Friday, October 18, 2013

Lamont's Revenge Law Will Jeopardize County Preparedness, Hurt People

Lamont McClure
Last night, a seemingly harmless ordinance sailed through Northampton County Council in a 6 to 3 vote. It's an amendment to the revolving door law, which was originally designed to prevent County workers from benefiting financially from their county service. On the surface, it looks good. In actuality, it will weaken county government. It might even jeopardize our emergency preparedness. It was adopted with virtually no consideration. In my opinion, McClure intended it as an act of revenge. It might even be a shot across the bow of Executive hopeful John Callahan, letting him know that Lamont McClure is in charge. Let me tell you the story.

To do that, I have to go back to Ross Marcus, Executive John Stoffa's Director of Human Services. As Stoffa entered the twilight of his second term, Marcus sought employment elsewhere. He accepted a position with Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley (CACLV).

CACLV

What is CACLV? It is a community action agency made possible by LBJ's War on Poverty. As explained by CACLV itself, its impossible mission is to combat poverty by developing programs that involve all sectors of the community — from elected officials and public sector representatives to low-income residents.

Naturally, CACLV administers County programs designed to help low-income residents, including homeless shelters and food banks. So when Marcus went to CACLV, he was continuing the work he had already been doing for eight years in human services. He was getting no stock options or bonuses in exchange for getting CACLV a deal on being the County's sole provider of poor people. He did not go there to get rich.

But when CACLV hired Marcus, it breached its contract with the County by hiring someone within a year after he left County employment.

The Revolving Door Ordinance

The County has a revolving door ordinance. It was adopted after a Director of Fiscal Affairs managed to snag a computer company as a County vendor. He then went off to work for and eventually own the business. That's not all.  Another former Director of Public Works went to work for an engineering firm that he brought into the County. 

Under this law, a County vendor may not hire an employee who has a say in its contract for a year after that person leaves County employment. Doing do is a breach of contract. 

This local law is aimed at preventing people from using their positions in County government to get rich instead of serving the people.

The Marcus Hire

Ross Marcus, as Director of Human Services, did have discretion over CACLV contracts. Because CACLV hired someone who has a say in whether they get the County's poor people business, they breached a few contracts. Not Marcus, but CACLV.  Never mind that nobody else can do what CACLV does.

It is a breach of contract, but the evil at which the revolving door ordinance is aimed, simply did not exist. There's not a lot of money in the poverty business. 

Moreover, CACLV Executive Director Alan Jennings pledged that Marcus would have no involvement in any Northampton County contracts for at least the next year. County Council was made aware of the breach, and Executive John Stoffa informed them he had no intention of pulling the plug on any CACLV contracts. Because Council has no authority to pursue breach of contract action, that's Stoffa's sole call.

Council appeared to acquiesce, but appearances can be deceptive.

The McClure Ordinance

Fast on the heels of this hire, Lamont McClure proposed changes to the County's Administrative Code. Though he chairs the County's legal and judicial committee, he conducted no hearings on his proposal. He added a section to the revolving door ordinance.
No officer or employee shall serve on any authority, board or commission, or any such entity, that does business with and/or provides paid services to the County of Northampton for a period up to and including one (1) year following the termination of the employee from County Service.
Why did he propose this? Good government? The answer, quite simply, is revenge.

Angry about the Marcus hire, McClure wanted to punish those who he thought were behind it. Lori G. Sywensky and Alicia Karner, both of whom are County employees, serve on the CACLV Board. He wants them to suffer for the Marcus hire, even though Karner and possibly Sywensky did not even participate in the vote. He wanted to make their very existence on the CACLV Board illegal.

Community action agencies like CACLV are supposed to include representatives from the public sector. Lori Sywensky is there as a watchdog for Northampton County, just as Lehigh County employee Frank Kane is a watchdog for his County's interests. These are unpaid positions. 

Alicia Karner is there as a representative and resident from Northampton County's poorest community, Bangor. 

The McClure amendment actually deprives Northampton County of financial oversight over the money sent to CACLV. It also denies a voice to the County's poorest community.

When some began to express concern that this would impact both Karner and Sywensky, McClure sanctimoniously responded that he wanted to keep personalities out of it.  But it is his disdain for Marcus, Stoffa and CACLV that prompted the ordinance. Why else propose it so soon after the Marcus hire? Moreover, he's sending a signal to Executive hopeful John Callahan, who is considering keeping both Karner and Sywensky.

What amazes me is that only three Council members saw the folly of the McClure maneuver. Peg Ferraro expressed concern about both Alicia and Lori, and suggested that the amendment should have no application to nonprofits. But McClure wanted a vote. Bruce Gilbert and Barb Thierry joined Peg Ferraro to vote against this change, but the rest went along blindly to adopt an ordinance that was never properly vetted.

The Negative Impact of the McClure Amendment 

In addition to depriving the County and its poorest community of any representation on the area agency designed to fight poverty, Lamont's Law will have other very negative impacts:

* Bob Mateff, Northampton County's Director of Emergency Management, will have to drop out of several emergency management boards on which he serves, including various first responder and HAZMAT teams. This jeopardizes our security and readiness for emergencies.

* Lori Sywensky, our Community Development Director, will have to resign from the Northampton County Housing Authority Board, which assists in community development. This negatively impacts those in need of affordable housing.

* Tom Harp, Northampton County's Director of Administration, will have to resign from the Board of DiscoverLV, which is designed to promote the Lehigh Valley. This compromises our ability to attract potential employers. 

* Executive John Stoffa would be required to resign from a host of boards, including the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission and LVEDC. This will hurt us in almost every area of County government, and weakens the authority of the Executive.

This is what you happens when a law is prompted by malice instead of a desire for good government, and is pushed through without proper consideration.

Will Stoffa Veto? 

Though the amendment passed with six votes, this clearly is a mistake. Hopefully, other Council members will see they were played. I have no idea whether Executive John Stoffa will veto this legislation, and neglected to talk to him.

63 comments:

Anonymous said...

Stoffa, Marcus, Jennings are arrogant people who feel the law applies to all but them.

Don't blame Mr. McClure for enforcing county law you throw to the side when your buddies violate it.

County Councils should also demand all contracts with CACLV go out to bid and be awarded to the lowest bidder.

Mr. Jennings sweetheart deal for Ross Marcus was a deliberate and flagrant abuse of county law. They both used the poor as a shield to pull this scam off.

Bernie O'Hare said...

This is not enforcing a law. This is a new law that makes illegal what currently is legal, and in areas that make no sense. From CACLV to Emergency Management, this ill considered law is nothing more than a mean-spirited desire to exact revenge against two county workers for something that one and possibly both did not do.

Anonymous said...

I can not imagine what this council was thinking.

It must just be...well....what you said Bernie, because there is no logical merit here.

I can't believe somebody like Ron Heckman voted for this.

Bernie O'Hare said...

He didn't. He's a candidate, not an elected Council member.

This was McClure, Kraft, Cusick, Dietrich, Parsons and Werner.

Anonymous said...

What Marcus and Jernnings did was wrong and flagrantly wrong. As to the charge "they" endangered the poor to take care of each other, the charge is accurate. The Board of CACLV should reverse and condemn this illegal action. Or county council should demand the president of the Board come and explain why this was necessary.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Nobody disputes that CACLV breached its contract. But you have not established how Marcus and Jennings took care of each other. All Jennings got from this hire is a headache. Marcus got a job on his chosen field. You have not even begun to demonstrate that this is some sort of pay off, no matter how hard you try. You appear to be motivated by passion as opposed to fact.

But assuming that this breach should be penalized, you can't do that without hurting the very people that the County and CACLV are designed to help. Allowing Marcus to work for CACLV allows him to continue to help people .

But let's assume arguendo that this must be punished. You would do that be depriving the County of a fiscal watchdog? You would threaten our own emergency preparedness?

That's just as stupid as shutting down the entire government bc you don't like one of its laws. It is tea party nutty.

Anonymous said...

Are you sure this wasn't pushed by Ron Heckman and you are blaming Lamont McClure? That would be pretty rotten!

Anonymous said...

Bernie, how much did you lose on the bet last night. looked like 10 bucks.

Anonymous said...

Stoffa can veto this bill? If so, won't that help with this issue?

Anonymous said...

JS was out with his chicky last night. not much to look out - sort of looked like a under nourished chicken. lots of PDA

Anonymous said...


The law is a good one. County Council can always, by vote and transparency, make exceptions to its laws. Once the Ordinance is on the books, it would seem that all the conflicts raised are grandfathered. Any new appointments would need to be vetted by Council and voted on whether in deed there is a true conflict.

Anonymous said...

The law probably conflicts with numerous resolutions and other ordinances. For a lawyer, I never found McClure to be intelligent. Seems that this will hurt the county.

Anonymous said...

" For a lawyer, I never found McClure to be intelligent."

For a County Council member, I never found McClure to be intelligent.

Anonymous said...

for a person I never found mcclueless intelligent

Anonymous said...

This is what you get when you put democrats in charge. Power plays, regulations and emotions. Getting even. There was no reason to do this. No logical one anyway but fairness only applies when they say so. Where there is no compensation and when it benefits the county what's the big deal. These people who are on these boards do a good job but that doesn't matter. The fear of someone who is not liked maybe changing jobs is the motivation here. We are about to get a few more emotional democrats I fear after this election. You just never know how to handle adults who are driven by childish behavior over mature common sense. Wouldn't you put our controller in this category also??????.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

I think the law is good for the county. The problem is you have county staff in positions of power like with Karchner and CACLV. She can do one or the other but not both. Same goes for all the others.

Bernie O'Hare said...

How is it "goof for the county" to deprive it of eyes and ears to watch its money, promote its programs and insure the safety of its residents?You are either insane or a spiteful person yourself.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Bernie, how much did you lose on the bet last night. looked like 10 bucks."

I lost $5 bc I bet Ken Kraft that the unions would not thank Stoffa. I have reported him for bribery. I believe a warrant has been issued.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Are you sure this wasn't pushed by Ron Heckman and you are blaming Lamont McClure? That would be pretty rotten!"

I am sure this was pushed by McClure. he authored the ordinance. He rammed it through. He discounted concerns expressed about Alicia and Lori. He did not think it through, nor did anyone who supported this bad ordinance.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"This is what you get when you put democrats in charge. Power plays, regulations and emotions. Getting even"

No party has a monopoly on this sort of thing. I hesitate to saddle Democrats with McClure, just as I hesitate to hold Rs responsible for shutting down the government in a morasse of power plays, emotion and desires to get even.

Anonymous said...

I see it different. Cruz and his bunch owed their voters to do anything they could. Even if they knew it was not the answer they needed the appearance of making an attempt. They will most like be voted back in just for that move. In the end the only ones hurt were the vets. The republicans stood with the vets and the dems stood with the illegals and thank Obama for the exception. Are they kidding??? They need to go. Riot gear for vets and no cops for the filthy 99%ers. Shows you pretty much where the sides stand. Democrats are by nature more emotional. Too many of the men are barely and add them to the emotional feminist and you do get people who are vindictive and therefore emotional. Think this president inns vindictive????? How about Hillary or Pelosi?????

Bernie O'Hare said...

You will see the result of your antics in Northampton County on election day.

We do not need tea party nuts or Lamont McClures in elected office. We need responsible people.

Last night's decision, like the decision to shut down the government, was irresponsible.

Anonymous said...

Something smells at CACLV Bernie. Why all of a sudden do they need another high paid executive. Nothing burns me more than non-profit executives who get salaries approaching six figures. That is what is harming our poor. Marcus should have never been considered, let alone hired.

Anonymous said...

Given the level of idiocy of our current and past few executives - and the fact that Callahan makes them look like geniuses, it's best that council, no matter how despicable, keep moronic execs in check. Callahan combines stupidity with dishonesty and will be far worse than the honest, but honestly dopey Stoffa.

Bernie O'Hare said...

What smells is your disdain for an organization that does so much good. The compensation paid to CACLV Executive Director Alan Jennings is far below the norm for nonprofits of his size. Just about everything that is good in South Side Bethlehem started with him . He brings in hundreds of thousands of dollars, just for that economically depressed community, every year. And there he is actually winning the war on poverty. He has reached out to Easton's west ward and to the slate belt. For all his flaws, and I point them out regularly, he is a visionary in a community of parochial thinkers.

What you are doing here is justifying vindictive legislation that will hurt the county bc you dislike Jennings. How nutty is that?

Have you even stopped to consider the impact this will have? I just scratched the surface, the Sheriff will probably have to resign from the police chiefs ass'n .

This is just insane.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"JS was out with his chicky last night. not much to look out - sort of looked like a under nourished chicken. lots of PDA"

Comments like these demonstrate nothing but that their authors are full of hate.

Anonymous said...

Bernie,while I find your blog informative,entertaining,insightful,cheeky and over all a great source of what's going on in the valley ( sorta like the TMZ of the Lehigh Valley )...you disappoint me with your blatant slant toward Callahan and the Executive Race. While Callahan is a "hopeful", so is Brown. I hope after the debate next week you will report an unbiased account of the candidates and their performances....still love you B-Man...but you're backin the wrong guy!

Anonymous said...

dumb question: will this apply to county council members also? If so, it would mean that council members would have to withdraw themselves from similar boards and bodies.

Add to the scratched surface LANTA, airport authority, workforce investment board...

Bernie O'Hare said...

1:50, I do not think it applies to Council or the Exec. To the extent my post states it applies to the Exec, I may be mistaken and have to check the Admin. Code.

Bernie O'Hare said...

1:47, I know that Brown or Callahan could win this race. My view is that lamont's law is aimed at Callahan, and is intended for his benefit, or more accurately, detriment.

Anonymous said...

Brown could win? Did I hear you right? He's not a sacrificial lamb? Wow. First I've heard you say that and that is a realistic statement and I congratulate you for making it. Brown robo call today and first Callahan mailer arrived today. Let the contest begin..

Anonymous said...

Lamont is truly mean spirited and it shows as he is also a sore loser and a nonparticipant in and of county government. The clock is ticking on his seat at the big table..

Bernie O'Hare said...

Sure, Brown could win. That's why we have elections, horse races and jury trials. You never really know what will happen .

Anonymous said...

Not sure why Scott Parsons joined in on this over reach of Lamont's. I'm a bit disappointed as he usually see's thru the crap.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I frankly think Werner and Scott were snookered. They are decent guys who would not deliberately hurt another person. Dietrich is on another planet so wo knows what was going on his mind, if anything. Cusick may have not thought this through. Ken Kraft acted in concert with McClure. They are forming a little junta. I am becoming more and more convinced that Kraft, Barron and McClure are grooming Borso and O'Donnell and hope to be a thorn in the side of the next exec.

Anonymous said...

I trust the voters will see thru this plot and elect a balanced council. The days of straight party voting are fading away thank goodness. A D sweep is very unlikely as I see Vaughn and maybe Geissinger making it to council.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I think four seats are a but a certainty, thanks to the tea party. I believe only Peg will hold on.

Anonymous said...

Bernie, I bumped into Ron Heckman today and asked him about this McClure law, he asked what law. He said he didn't know anything about it.

He asked me why he was dragged into the debate and I told him I didn't know. So I 'll ask you, why was Heckman dragged into the discussion on your blog?

Anonymous said...

So three republicans two of which are very conservative made the right call last night? How does putting more liberals on council make it a better more rational council? Lamont was not the only democrat who voted for this. We will just get more of him if the democrats win seats. Without the tea party the libs would get everything they cry for. They are the counter to the left wing nuts and needed at this time. It's amazing how most of the moderate democrats fall in lock step with the libs. Makes the republicans look like the independent ones which they are. When they decide to hide a way to work together they will accomplish much more. They need to learn that lesson from the left. It's just hard to give up your independence. What would the left know about that, they just accept everything and in the end I believe will be very sorry. They will be effected at some point.

Bernie O'Hare said...

If you read the comments, you can see how he was dragged into this. Someone anonymously said the whole thing was his idea. I never believed that. It's just not Ron's style.

Bernie O'Hare said...

6:26, common sense and decency can be found among Republicans, Democrats, conservatives and liberals. This was not a dem v. R issue. It was a vindictive proposal, disguised as good government, introduced by a phony and backed by someone who wants to be President of County Council.

Anonymous said...

Bernie, there are some inside the Dem's working with some Republicans to try and undermine Seyfried and Heckman in the election. His name being thrown into this may be part of the plan.

Haven't been able to pin down the rumors yet.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I figured somebody was trying to saddle He man w/ McClure nonsense. Probably Barron. He lives on this blog and has obviously demonstrated he is a snake.

Lighthouse said...

6:26... your thesis is inaccurate. This is not about whether we should have "libs" or tea partiers on Council. I believe this is all about one word--Power, and the overt and covert maneuvering of McClure and Kraft, is in the same spirit of former Councilman "Charles!". Its about ego, and power, not ideas of what's good for the County. Its kind of sad that we seem to be in store for a "divided" County Government, regardless of who wins.

Anonymous said...

Lighthouse. Do you really think tax raiser Hunter and the other democrats are what we need on council? Yes even with that there will be power plays. Some will want to spend and raise taxes some will not go along so easily. Kraft will spend if union jobs are on the line. Lamont is his buddy. Can they swing 3 more. Of course they can. Especially if they are from the same party. If there are power plays I'd rather see opposing sides with opposing ideas. Sometimes that is all we can hope for. With Republicans you almost always get someone who has worked in the private sector. No union involvement and no taxes in their paycheck. They don't have a union to keep them in a job they should not have. They are usually more grounded to reality when it comes to earning and spending a buck. They almost never have their hands out. They almost always have a good foundation in their relationships and as a married woman I feel more love and comfort around these types then I do the other who fall far short here. Just my opinion but based on a pretty worldly view as far as dealing with people goes. Anyone of them can have the shirt off of my back. I can afford another one. I work.......no taxpayer pays me dollar one. My retirement is my own as are those I am closest to. So it does make a difference who decides where my dollars go.

Anonymous said...

Yeah right, no Democrat has ever had a job in the private sector. You folks are real narcissists.

That's what you should call your party. Call yourself a victim much. Poor. poor, pitiful you!

Lighthouse said...

9:29
it may surprise you to know that I have occaisionally voted for a D or an R precisely in the hopes of maintaining an alternate voice on whatever the governing body was. Inbred thinking and echo chambers are always potential dangers. However, the thrust of my comment, without debating the other points you raise, is that the current maneuverings of some are solely for their own personal sense of power in the little fishbowl of NorCo Council, and not over any genuine disagreement of substance.

Anonymous said...

Caclv is a scam...bunch of people making money off the poor.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Really? Just who is making money off the poor at CACLV?

Anonymous said...

The poverty pimps bernie

Anonymous said...

Hey, the home weatherization project was a doozy.

Anonymous said...

Marcus and Jennings old money buddies from the west end. They take care of each other. Most people have forgot what Marcus knows about Human Services. He does know the moneyed Republicans like Jennings and how to kiss ass, so I guess once again they came through and he got another public teat job.

Anonymous said...

It's not that democrats don't work in the private sector it is that the takers most anyway are who you protect and think we are all here to keep them fat and sassy...

Bernie O'Hare said...

This is insane. Neither jennings nor Marcus has ever enriched themselves at the expense of the poor. You justify vindictive legislation based on misguided notions of what CACLV and the people that this ordinance will hurting so many areas. That is exactly the same kind of tea party thinking that led to a government shutdown, except LaMont McClure is the driving force here.

Anonymous said...

As I see it..CACLV procures funds from the rich and gives to the poor. Finding donors and philanthropist's and deep pockets is what they do best. Modern day Robin Hood's. As far as I can tell..Jennings is doing the heavy lifting and doing a pretty good job. More power to him in his search for dollars to help those who are hanging on at the bottom rung of the socio-economic ladder.

Anonymous said...

Lighthouse, do you personally know McClure, have you sat and talked to him? Same question about Kraft, do you know him or anything about either one of them? You have some insight and I am really curious as to where these ideas and conclusions come from.
Thank you for the response in advance.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Posted anonymously.

Lighthouse said...

8:53,
you are welcome. I have never personally "sat and talked" with President Obama, Senators Toomey/Casey, nor Governor Corbett, yet I make observations of all. Is any American's views on the above invalid because they never had the privilege to "sit and talk" while sharing a drink at the Apollo with them? However, I do have eyes to see with, ears to hear with, and a brain to think with. The fact that you acknowledge that I "have some insight" suggests that I may have hit the nail on the head. Good night.

Anonymous said...

anon 4:01, If Mr. Jennings is so concerned about the poor, he would not put them in jeopardy by illegally hiring someone unnecessarily.

Bernie O'Hare said...

The only person wo has tried to hurt them is Lamont McClure

Anonymous said...

Lighthouse, you didn't answer the question.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Steve Barron, He has no obligation to answer you. You and Lamont have an obligation to answer him.