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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Feds Investigating Pay-to-Play AND Pay-to-PLA

Although the federal investigation into Allentown and Reading certainly encompasses pay-to-play, it also extends into pay-to-PLA.. Here in the Lehigh Valley, Project Labor Agreements are fairly common for municipal projects. But they are far more controversial in Berks County, where the Republican Commissioners passed a measure last year to ban them.

Before his sudden departure on a midnight train to Georgia, Miked Fleck was one of the area's biggest advocates of PLAs. In Easton, where he was a member of City Council, he promoted legislation requiring them for any municipal project over $250,000. His companion, Allentown Mayor Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski, has boasted that "I led the charge to have every major project in Allentown done using a PLA. They contribute to the local economy and give back so much to the community. Using a PLA really is an easy choice for any community that cares about local business and local jobs.”

In addition to these arguments in support of PLAs, they tend to make construction sites safer. The chief argument against them is that they drive up construction costs.

At this time last year, Fleck and Reading Mayor Vaughn Spencer were pushing an ordinance that would require a project labor agreement for all city projects costing over $5 million. Unions, which donated $18,950 to Spenser in 2014, with more to come this year, wanted in on a $150 million renovation of the sewage treatment plant, the $330 million BioNitrogen fertilizer plant and other projects like the former Reading Outlets, owned by developer Alan Shuman. Fleck, who incidentally was working for the trades unions, organized a jobs rally to pressure Reading's City Council, which is less of a rubber stamp than the one in Allentown.

Developer Alan Shuman, who was opposed to being forced into a PLA, spoke forcefully against it at Reading City Council meetings.

He would see his $14 million reconstruction of The Reading Outlet Center go up in smoke. The property was torched on October 18, 2014. The feds have declared it an arson, and are offering an $85,000 reward for information that will lead them to the culprit. Interestingly, most of this reward money has been pledged by the Associated Builders and Contractors Inc., Keystone Chapter. That group is strongly opposed to project labor agreements. Obviously, their reward and the federal involvement are indications that trades unions are under suspicion.

"We don't do that sort of thing anymore," one union official told me. There's certainly no need for it in The Lehigh Valley, and it's extremely difficult to get an arson conviction. But let's be realistic. Just a few months ago, former Ironworkers union boss Joe Dougherty was convicted in Philadelphia, City of Brotherly Love, of racketeering, arson and extortion.

Would the feds move Miked Fleck out of town because he dimed the Penguin? Not likely. But if he did something that really pissed off the unions, like implicate them in an arson after taking all their money and even screwing union leaders out of a Sky Box at the PPL Arena, well that's different. The criminal charges filed against LV Building Trades Prez Jim Reilley for an assault on Fleck's brother-in-law is an indication that unions are angry about something.

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

So two guys get into a fight at any Irish bar. Like this has never happened before in world history? This is Sensationalism 101 and I, for one, am offended by this uncalled for attack on honest working men everywhere.

Good Government would see to it that unlicensed and unregulated bloggers like you are put out of business post haste.

Anonymous said...

Moloschminsky, too.

Neither of you two are highly-trained professionals like you will find at The Morning Call. Neither of you two even have any bachelor's degrees in Journalism, much less any credentials beyond that bare minimum. Yes, it's all rather disgraceful and most unbecoming of progressive, civilized society.

Anonymous said...

Now Miked Fleck left town under the protection of the FBI because the unions had him targeted? Not one of your best "connect the dots" posts.

Anonymous said...

Other individuals have been threatened and assaulted, I pray the FBI puts an end to this criminal behavior.

Anonymous said...

mere speculation at this point

Anonymous said...

Is fueling speculation a crime?

Bernie O'Hare said...

The push for PLAs in Reading is not mere speculation, but factual. Flecks's push for PLAs is no mere speculation, but is factual. That a leading Reading opponent of PLAs saw his business go up in flames in not speculation, but factual. The involvement of the feds and the reward from an anti-PLA outfit suggests quite strongly that unions are suspected of having set this fire. It is no speculation, but fact that trade unions have given heavily to pro-PLA Pawlowski and Spenser. I believe that, in addition to looking at pay to play, feds are trying to solve that arson and suspect trade unions.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Now Miked Fleck left town under the protection of the FBI because the unions had him targeted? Not one of your best "connect the dots" posts."

They are not going to move him over Pawlowski. They will move him over concerns about union retaliation. I have heard that is the case since the move, but am only now discovering what he did that might have made them angry.

Anonymous said...

Bernie,
don't let all this hate put to print bother you one bit¿!($ Your comments about local ommitted out news medias have struck the nails head driving it deep in the reel of how deep the corrupt enterprise goes and all involved from top to bottom¿!($ The tools employed infect every facet of life public and private¿!($

This I'll behavior exceptable by officials for a campaign donation, is like a terrorist cell operating epicentrally from American soil¿!($ This theft of public funds helps and I am very sure some of said monies are funneled abroad to help terrorist cells capitol start up funds¿!($


redd
patent pending



Anonymous said...

People are afraid to lose their jobs,
People are always looking over their shoulders.
People are scared.
I've never seen anything like this.

Anonymous said...

Good post. One detail - I heard that Mr. Shuman's building was torched at a late night hour immediately following a very contentious meeting in Reading about the project labor agreements, which was attended by some guys from outside of the Reading area. The fire was reportedly set in 5 different parts of the building.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Interesting.

Anonymous said...

@12:54,
How does having a college degree in journalism make one more competent? Just because you have a $100,000 piece of paper hanging on your wall doesn't make you more intelligent, or more capable of doing anything.

Anonymous said...

A bit OT, but is the NIZ getting funded during the state budget impasse?

Bernie O'Hare said...

Good question.

Charlie Sch said...

The NIZ is not an appropriation. It is a diversion of certain tax payments. Therefore, I believe the NIZ funds continue to flow even though there is no state budget.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of Sky box, I thought ANIZDA and the City were suppose to share one at PPL center since they controlled the purse strings?

Anonymous said...

Interesting. The NIZ is not an appropriation in the budget, but it is part of the budget process. The NIZ was enabling legislation that Pat Browne slipped into the Fiscal Code. The Fiscal Code is part of the annual budget process which has not occurred yet this budget year.

Anonymous said...

There is absolutely no reason why Legislators can change to Fiscal Code to stop rewarding the NIZ moving business from one LV community to another. It will continue to be a problem for the next 28+ years. When the relocations start to come from York, Altonna, Scranton, Erie will there be a movement to do something. Psst, Bethlehem business....the NIZ is much better than the CRIZ. The water is warm...come on over.