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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Friday, June 19, 2015

Ceasefire Declared in Dispute Between Brown and Council

John Brown
June 18 must have started off as a bad day for Northampton County Executive John Brown. In a sneaky surprise attack, The Morning Call's Bill White inducted Brown into his Hall of Fame. It's a really despicable practice, and I often wonder why I never started it. Though it must have been some small solace to see that Controller Steve Barron was also added, it still had to sting. It's certainly no badge of honor to be part of a motley crew that includes the likes of Jim "Spartacus" Gregory, sludge king Ron Angle and yours truly*. But when Brown addressed Council that evening, he turned that bad day into a good day. He gave what appeared to be a heartfelt apology for his role in creating the friction that currently exists with Council. What impact his had on Council has a whole remains to be seen, but Scott Parsons appeared to be visibly moved and thanked Brown.

What stuck White is Brown's "bizarre determination to do so many things the wrong way." In addition to using taxpayer dollars to hire a public relations consultant who seemed to excel only in getting him into more trouble, he did goofy things like barring a Council member and Baron from a routine news conference, then posting armed guards at a subsequent news event to keep Council members from crashing it. He has saved money by allowing vacancies to pile up, stretching the County to its breaking point. He unilaterally reduced health benefits of a workforce whose income was already going in reverse, thanks to an unpopular Easton commuter tax. He has also been alternatively petulant and arrogant in some of his exchanges with Council.

His biggest problem is his lack of transparency. He has failed to respond to emails or phone calls, and that attitude has been passed along to some members of his cabinet like Luis Campos. This unwillingness to communicate has extended to members of Council and the Controller.

Things came to a head over secret raises he has handed out without seeking the required clearance from Council. This is completely contrary to the merit pay system in place, something that former Executive Gerald "Jerry" Seyfried explained in a rare appearance at council's request. When fellow Hall of Famer Steve Barron found out what was going on, Brown circled the wagons. Finally, after several more weeks, Council demanded he justify these raises by June 17 or face the consequences in court. Unanimously. Though the amount in dispute is minimal, Council's power to set wages was being assaulted along with the merit pay system in place that encourages professionalism, and not cronyism, in the workforce.

Though Brown did ultimately release this information, it was accompanied by a "lawyer letter from his Solicitor, Ryan Durkin, adding fuel to the fire. That letter reserved "all of the Executive's past, present and future rights, claims and defenses in the ongoing disagreement" and contained other language that is routine in the legal arena, but made Council members even more angry.

On June 17, when this matter came to Ken Kraft's Personnel Committee, he decided to forward the entire matter to the full Council without discussion. The stage was set for anything, from the suspension of these raises to a vote that would simply abolish all the positions.

But nothing happened. The matter was tabled by an 8-1 vote with only Seth Vaughn voting No because he was concerned about innocent employees being stuck in limbo. Council is willing to work with the Executive because instead of coming out with guns blazing and corporate babble, he did something different.

He apologized.

What had started out as a bad day was ending as a good one. For perhaps the first time, Brown looked and acted like an Executive instead of some mid-level manager from the corporate world. It was his first good speech, delivered without the usual corporate babble.

He conceded that all parties, including Council, "were and are acting in good faith." Instead of slamming prior administrations, he agreed with former Executive Seyfried's remarks that "one branch of government suing another to resolve differences of opinion is a waste of time, money and only hurts Northampton County."

He reflected on how he would feel if h
e were a Council member. "Standing in Council's shoes, reviewing not only the authorizing documents guiding the County but also the specific actions taken and the lack of communication with and inclusion of Council in those activities, it is absolutely reasonable Council would conclude I was trying to circumvent the County's guidelines, usurp Council's authority and be offended."

He then publicly apologized for any offenses his action may have caused, and told Council, "I have voluntarily agreed to not authorize any additional salary adjustments without bringing the matter before Council until a formal resolution of the matter can be achieved."

He also apologized to the 14 employees who received payraises "for any public and private upset caused," calling them "innocents" who "had nothing to do wit my decision to authorize the salary adjustments without bringing the matter before Council." He also apologized to Cathy Allen, his Deputy Director of Administration, referring to her as a "surrogate target of Council's frustration from my lack of understanding and consideration of Council's need and concerns." And in case they missed it the first or second time, he apologized to Council again.

Scott Parsons, who has repeatedly asked for more transparency from Brown, immediately thanked him. Even Lamont McClure and Ken Kraft, Brown's harshest critics on Council, seemed willing to give peace a chance.

At least a ceasefire.
___________

* My own induction was a travesty..Ron Angle and John Stoffa, my supposed friends, either bribed or threatened White into naming me. I have sworn revenge, and horns are now growing out of Stoffa's head. Angle already had them.

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

Council blinked. Pathetic. Seth Vaughn: "does this mean the raises stay in place?" You bet your ass. Including the waste of money known as Cathy Allen.

Anonymous said...

Bernie - who did you have to bribe to get the press seat? Was this really because it was your birthday? Was this a one-time affair? Joe gave you a wide berth - was he having trouble seeing around you?

Was someone from the ET there? They didn't update the SC shooting story after 1:30AM yesterday - so it read "looking for a suspect" all day - didn't give his name, didn't say he was arrested. Big fat nothing. That establishment may have new offices, but the news has gone straight to hell. They did feature prom pictures again though.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I took the seat up front bc the meeting room was getting filled up and I wanted the audience to be able to sit and not stand. I have quite a bit of junk and usually take up two seats, which is unfair when a meeting gets crowded. I don't care for the seats up front because my view of half the Council is blocked by the podium. I like to be able to see every person as they speak. I definitely prefer sitting in the peanut gallery. You get more of a sense from the audience there, too. I think I did make things tougher for poor Joe McDonald by being up there. I did notice him wheezing a few times, which i thought strange bc i just took a shower last Sunday.

Bernie O'Hare said...

The ET appeared to be MIA again, although I was not checking.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Brown once again proves he id little bo's better

Anonymous said...

pussies

Anonymous said...

Mr. Brown's comment regarding a happy work force shows he has no idea what his workforce thinks or feels. It is almost as bad as the most valuable asset comment he throws around. I wish I was paid by the amount of times he says 'Challenges'.

Anonymous said...

I don't believe him.

Anonymous said...

Why doesn't council just keep tableing everything and ignore everything and anything. What a joke. worst group of politicians i have ever seen.

Anonymous said...

Peg Farraro used to be better. She runs a terrible meeting. Sucks up to Brown and the rich people every time. And she forgets what she voted on. McClure calls them illegal raises. Peg says "thats your opinion". Lamont says "its your opinion too, you voted for the resolution".

Keep up the crappy work Peg!

Anonymous said...

Well, the spineless council punted again with the Brown pay raise giveaways. Even with the phony and weak justifications for the raises they could not act on reversing them. Brown the Clown tried another stalling tactic tonight. He came the the podium humbled and apologetic. He apologized to council if they felt slighted by his unilateral granting of raises to his favorites. He apologized to the 14 employees who were dragged into this controversy. "They are innocents in the matter" he declared. IS HE NUTZ? It is likely that all of the employees requested the raises, either formally or by complaining to their supervisors. They were hardly "innocents" and were well compensated for their actions. But the most sickening act by Brown tonight was groveling for his pet crony, Cathy Allen. He not only apologized to her, but did so TWICE! It was nauseating to hear him praise Allen who he crowed had a "reputation to get things done and her attention to detail." Oh, like the detail of not claiming mileage reimbursement from her home to her headquarters on her expense report in violation of county policy and IRS rules?? She is unworthy of an apology from ANYONE since she never apologized for that transgression. What the hell does Allen have on Brown that he kisses her ass this way in public? Brown turned from snotty little curmudgeon about the pay raises two months ago to a man who has seen religion! Is it because he knows that the justifications for the raises were a farce and would be shot down by council without his contrition? He has used every tactic in the book, from arrogant resistance to piousness to "heart felt" penitence, to protect his crony Allen. He deserves induction into Bill White's "Hall of Fame." He is the sleaziest executive in county history.

Anonymous said...

Peg Ferraro will do anything Brown wants her to do, after all, he gave her daughter a whopping 30 percent pay raise. Oh, did you know that her daughter now makes more than $90,000.00 a year. If Peg doesn't tow the mark, Brown can very easily eliminate Peg's daughter from the County Payroll. Political whores seem to be everywhere in County Government.

Anonymous said...

Now if only Brown would put himself into to the shoes of his workforce. Every move he makes is with calculation. Humility and remorse are the least of his traits, but council apparently fell for it. Pathetic. This latest act only inspires me more to assure this "leader" is a one term executive. Norco employees better take notice and spread the word on this administration. We need to mobilize, including family, friends, and beyond in order to knock this guy out of the box. If you can vote in Northampton County, then register to do so if you haven't already. Then get your ass to the polls come election day. Enough is enough.

Anonymous said...

He was afraid that if he did not grovel before council they may have gone so far as to eliminate his crony Allen's position. The handwriting was on the wall. But council showed how toothless they are. They were hoodwinked by a supreme phony. And you were too, O'Hare.

Anonymous said...

Bernie, couldn't help but notice your silent protest by not rising for the "moment of silence" at the council meeting last night. Guess you feel this is religious intrusion. Fine. But then you failed to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. At least you lifted your fat carcass up and faced the flag. But you have to be so special and different to refuse to pledge our flag. One must assume you find this meaningless and that YOU are the true American for demonstrating your individuality. Bravo! You once again what a class act you are.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I do not participate in the prayer or moment of silence because it is bullshit. I will stand if there is a member of the clergy there as a matter of respect for that person and his or her religion. But I am not standing simply bc some Council member tells me to do so. As for the pledge, I participate in the pledge. If I did not utter the words and beat my breast to your satisfaction, that's too bad. Of course, that is bullshit, too. I happy to live in a country where these kinds of loyalty oaths are unnecessary.

Bernie O'Hare said...

" They were hoodwinked by a supreme phony. And you were too, O'Hare."

Nobody was hoodwinked. Everyone is suspicious. But I will take him at his word until he gives me reason to think otherwise.

Anonymous said...

This is why county employees get no respect. They don't deserve it. They don't want to hear the rationale behind the raises they want to publically humiliate and tar and feather the recipients. That is so sad. Most of the recipients deserved raises. The loudest protestors are paid above whet they deserve. Some of these county employee crybabies are functional illiterates that would be "punted" in the real world.

Stop crying. If you are unhappy get a job somewhere else. Od course that would be pretty hard when you can barely read and write. Taxpayers' are sick of your communist moaning.

Anonymous said...

Of

Anonymous said...

That's total non sense and you know it. Sure there are freeloaders and slackers everywhere and in every job. To over generalize and group all county workers show your education and maturity level.

Matt Miles said...

Thursday was day 1 of Brown's re-election campaign. The Republican donors spoke to him about allowing Peg and Glenn to miss the fundraiser in Philly. I'm sure it was his first sobering moment.

Anonymous said...

9:48..You are a genius! What a phony Brown is. Council beware of wolves in sheep's clothing. JB the consummate con artist. Take nothing for granted. His handlers have yanked on his chain. Unfortunately..that is the only thing that gets his attention. Perhaps a shock collar is now called for so council can get the same results when needed?

Anonymous said...

Brown's multiple apologies to his fellow con artist Allen made me hurl! She was one of the "innocents" whose pay raise grab made her the lightning rod of the issue. You better believe that Allen pestered her Daddy Warbucks Brownstain from DAY ONE to pad her pay in any way possible. Her goal is to make as much money as she can, at taxpayers expense, in the four years her benefactor will be in office. She tried to squeeze some nickels by cheating on her travel expense account. She likely connived with Brown to come up with phony justifications for her multiple raises. Brown praised her work with insurance programs, WHICH IS IN HER JOB DESCRIPTION! So what exactly has she done out of the ordinary to justify a 14% pay increase in a year and a half on the job? Brown humbled himself to save her job, pure and simple. They are both phonies who cannot be trusted.

Anonymous said...

Cathy Allen..innocent? Don't make me puke! She deserves to be demonized and have her pay raises dissected. Do not let her off the hook here! Brown would be totally lost without her at his side. He will do almost anything to save his sidekick and personal adviser on all matters. He would turn into a babbling baby w/o her. Do not let him use this ploy for her to avoid scrutiny. Council has finally found the pressure point..now push harder!

Anonymous said...

8:40 PULEEEEEZE! One cannot imagine such a relationship without losing all sense of reality, as well as one's breakfast. EWWWWWWW