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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Allentown Stops Issuing Tax Certs

Many of you who live or work in Allentown are a bit upset with your government right now. No one is blaming Mayor Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski for 31" of snow. But he did refuse to declare a snow emergency despite having several days notice of a major snowstorm making its way up the Eastern seaboard. This failure resulted in cars getting snowed in along the City's snow routes. It made it impossible for plows to do their jobs. When His Goner finally did decide to take action, he was actually sending cops out at 2 and 3 am with bullhorns to tell people they had to get up and move their cars. As bad as that problem is, there's another one you don't know about, unless you're buying or selling property in the Queen City. This problem is the City's decision to suddenly stop issuing tax certs.

What the hell's a tax cert and why should I care?

Most of you know very little about how real estate transactions are conducted. They involve some of the most important services that local government provides. Exhaustive title records maintained at the county permit you to search every square inch of real estate for hundreds of years. In addition, cities like Allentown keep a record of the real taxes paid on each parcel and whether anything is owed. These must be paid before anything else, including mortgages.

If you're buying or refinancing in downtown Allentown, your title agent or lawyer will contact the city and ask for something called a tax certificate. For $25, the City can tell you exactly what is owed and whether taxes are delinquent. Without a tax cert, most title agents and lawyers will postpone a settlement because it's needed for a clear title. In Allentown, don't plan on settling anytime soon. The City will take your money and process your request for a tax cert, but it won't be issued. The City stopped doing so on January 14.

When I called Allentown yesterday to find out why, I was transferred to City Communications Director Mike Moore. That's not even his real name, which I find completely outrageous in local government officials. I would expect an honest government worker to tell me who he really is, but Moore uses a stage name. (His real name is Mike Korp). I pointed this out in a voice message to Moore (Korp), and as I suspected, he refused to respond.

But I also have friends in the title biz. One of them called, too. He is actually one of those waiting for a tax cert so he can schedule a closing. He was told he'll just have to keep waiting. When he asked for the reason for this holdup, he was told the decision came from "management."

Bob Cimerol, who runs First-United Land Transfer, has expressed his frustration in an email to City Council.
We have been informed by individuals who work for the City of Allentown Treasury Department that they were instructed by management on January 14, 2016 not to release any tax certifications to any parties until further notice. This order complicates real estate transactions for all properties in the City of Allentown since a tax certification is necessary to convey clear title. City administration is not giving a reason for this hold action. This action will delay real estate closings in the city for buyers, seller, Realtors and lenders. Your help in resolving this issue is greatly appreciated.
My guess is that this has something to do with Northeast Revenue, a privatized tax collector with a contract to collect delinquent taxes in Allentown. Two former City officials, Ass't City Solicitor Dale Wiles and Finance Director Gary Strathearn, have pleaded guilty to participating in a bid-rigging scheme for Northeast Revenue at the instance of Fed Ed, identified in court papers as Public Official No. 3. Northeast had contributed $15,000 to Fed Ed's various campaigns. Wiles and Strathearn created a bogus panel that falsely gave Northeast higher scored that two other firms that were rated higher.

Northeast would later rely on this bid-rigging scheme when it tried to convince Fountain Hill to allow it to do its collection work. According to Fountain Hill's July 22 minutes, Northeast Revenue told borough officials that it was interviewed by a panel that did not include the mayor. An ordinance that would permit Northeast to collect delinquent taxes in Fountain Hill was tabled on September 8, but approved in October. It's unclear whether a contract was ever fully executed.

Strathearn's plea was entered on January 11, and the decision to stop issuing tax certs became effective January 14.

Though Fed Ed can't be blamed for the heavy snowstorm, his refusal to treat it seriously is one reason why many residents were unable to dig out of their homes and get to work. And the suspension of tax certs means that people will be unable to get into their newly purchased homes, too.

67 comments:

Anonymous said...

Mike "Moore" was a hack for Tom Goldsmith before he became a flack for Fed Ed.
He'll be there in a dysfunctional City Hall issuing the press release when Ed is doing his purp walk.
What a sorry bunch of crooks and goons.

Anonymous said...

Frankly I'm amazed that sorry operation of a city functions as well as it does.

Bernie O'Hare said...

12:28, It does so bc most of the rank-and-file people working there are very dedicated/

Unknown said...

I see decline and dysfunction everywhere I look outside The Potemkin village,

Anonymous said...

The Mayor is finally doing something right and your picking on him? Allentown (remember the song living here in Allentown by springsteen)is a shithole and Fed Ed is merely helping and protecting any future assholes from moving in and being fucked ovah so therefore he should be thanked not condemned. But Fed ED A BREAK Bernie!

Anonymous said...

We are in the throes of a true civil crisis in Allentown. That would be true even if all of the homeless were no longer homeless.

We talk in theory about how City Hall is ground to a halt because of Ed. Then this storm comes, and the City is crippled by it. School is closed all week. So much for free school breakfast and lunch for the children of the ASD, almost all of whom qualify.


Ed failed to call a snow emergency, and I believe that is because he is distracted and besieged. I believe this is the first real practical example of the whispers and shouts of City Hall no longer functioning. I believe that because of that, downtown commerce was halted and ASD kids are going hungry. That is a civil crisis.

Now we're learning that real estate titles are being held up until no further notice.

An aside that may not be an aside: I hear Sage, 7th and Sole, and Aquarius are all very close to closing. American Hairlines is no longer taking appointments, say multiple people. Moravian Bookstore is on the bubble, we hear. Not good. Not good at all.

Anonymous said...

Bernie you probably already know this but Matt Kerr, spokesperson for the Diocese of Allentown, is actually Matt Korp (Mike's brother).

Anonymous said...

Bernie
Thought for sure you'd be writing about the Parking Authority.

Anonymous said...

6:19. Is this true or humor?

Anonymous said...

Many possibly 90% of Allentown's school students enjoy breakfast and lunch at the
kindness of taxpayers. A small nonprofit use to provide a weekend backpack of food so these same children would have something to eat.

Anonymous said...

Business is stopped and kids are home and hungry. City Hall is in disarray. The homeless are literally in the street, with everyone else, because the sidewalks are impassable.
Water and sewer rates are about to increase.
The subpoenas and indictments continue.
Allentown is national news.
Exactly what is the State of the City?

Anonymous said...

6:32, it is true. Matt is two years older than Mike and they have a younger brother Bob who kept the family name.

Anonymous said...

I cancelled my physical therapy for today. That's the second time this week.
I'm not about to attempt an excursion into that mess.

Anonymous said...

Water and sewer ah. Carefully examine the water and sewer bill you receive next summer. If you water a garden or your lawn all water usage is then billed as sewage. This must generate an enormous amount of revenue. Correct me if I'm wrong.

Anonymous said...

Matt Kerr worked with Gunther for many years. He was a good newscaster.

Anonymous said...

Please don't let the Conference disgrace die. After your story, visited their website and interestingly the boss's face is in lots of photos. Modesty?

Anonymous said...

Bernie,
The yard sign has a nice touch, I had a black sign with pastel writting on it for about two years¿!($ The state ment somewhat true, but fed eds slumlordian coconspiritors campaign donors and lawyers protecting said slumlordians are the real problem¿!($ Than there are the ommited facts seperated by the flip flop and chalk and paint to make the taint what it ain't¿!($ There is also the connection between LLC landholding that are seperated but one in the same of this nue nue nue multilisting tool, and the implimentations of grant grab get to give blight to eminant domain takeover as a dirrect result of the help and protection of the criminality infection process into designated blocks were there are those that refuse to go along with the traveling circus propogated and ReLocated epicentral¿!($
The FEDS must understand it is going to take the game of CAINNING THE BOIL to bring the core out because bacon just won't work because it has allready infected the zit and cyst to the east of epicentralized location ReLocation for the hidden developmental agenda¿!($
No sigNUTure needed, now these parishinors of church on the run should go in peace and serve there darklord into the bowells of hell¿!($

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

Unfortunately, the description 4:07AM provides is likely accurate.

Until the City Administration is rebuilt, following the removal of several key individuals, the desire to do business there will remain low. With the possible exception of some arena event, Downtown Allentown doesn't really offer anything that can't already be found outside the city.

Only when the Allentown FBI investigation begins to conclude, and that's still expanding, we need to understand not enough people living OUTSIDE that city limit will decide to venture INSIDE. Unless, of course, their job requires them to go there.

I also expect more business closings. It just doesn't seem 'right' there during this predicament and the negative image that naturally follows.

Fred Windish

Anonymous said...

Walked by American Hairlines and POPMART Clothing Store; one is empty and the other has all of its' windows blocked by paper... seems to be closed. So, it seems we got the 2 for 1 deal and with Shula's it makes 3.... Unfortunatly, in my opinion, the real tragic closing was PASTA ALLA ROSA, the restaurant on the corner across from the Court House. They invested their own money, time, etc and was often visited for lunch by attorneys and judges. They weren't in the NIZ equation....


Alfonso Todd

Anonymous said...

Bernie,

The knock at 7:46 am is a knock a Mike Molovinsky. Please remove it.

Anonymous said...

Here is an old article on the Brothers Korp

http://articles.mcall.com/1986-08-24/features/2537264_1_sports-broadcasts-fm-professional-broadcasting

Anonymous said...

What if- all city council positions are vacated, the mayor is gone, what happens?

Anonymous said...


@ 1:08 am
The song 'Allentown' was by Billy Joel and not Springsteen

Anonymous said...

Can we appoint Schlossberg already?!?!?!

Anonymous said...

Great reporting, Bernie. The public needs to know about things like this, which can have a great impact on the biggest financial move most make in a lifetime.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"What if- all city council positions are vacated, the mayor is gone, what happens? "

Please don't waste people's time with ridiculous hypotheticals that are actually off topic.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Here is an old article on the Brothers Korp

http://articles.mcall.com/1986-08-24/features/2537264_1_sports-broadcasts-fm-professional-broadcasting "


I consider the practice of using an assumed name in government to be dishonest. Allentown, of all places, needs to be transparent. Moore/Korp does not work for Allentown, but is there to present Fed Ed in a flattering light. He's not doing so well.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Bernie,

The knock at 7:46 am is a knock a Mike Molovinsky. Please remove it."


Done. The use of an Old Testament metaphor is a subtle anti-Semitic slur. It is clearly from the Blog Mentor, who has made other anti-Semitic remarks about MM. Nice guy.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Exactly what is the State of the City?"

Fed Ed will have his chance to explain that tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

Pity the working poor.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Bernie Thought for sure you'd be writing about the Parking Authority."

I do not cover a story being covered by the mainstream unless I have something to add. I resent when people tell me what i need to be covering. I make that call and no one else.This story is pretty important to those who buy and sell rel estate in Allentown and needs to be told.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Bernie you probably already know this but Matt Kerr, spokesperson for the Diocese of Allentown, is actually Matt Korp (Mike's brother). "

Yes, I do, and he is just as nonresponsive as his brother.

Anonymous said...

Indeed, the closing of Pasta Alla Rosa is a damn shame. I had many a fine lunch there.
No foo foo nonsense, just good food at a fair price.
I'll miss it.

Anonymous said...

We the people stand in as oppointments will be the attending majority that allso happens to be a minority to Allentowns pay to play appointments allocated, than there is also the barter system in this massive maddoff realestate flippflopp, chalk and paint and make the taint what it ain't¿!($ Just maybe some of palumpas public pension proCUREment process people are realey just one in the same with the fipp of there original god givin gender¿!($
AGAIN, go in peace and serve your dark over lords worSHIPped at local church on the run and incubated into the innocent indigent childrens children by the head boil incubus¿!($

Dreaming of Justice said...

Went to an appointment downtown yesterday..had to take detour after detour due to uncleared snow. Traffic is non-existent or at a crawl.The one-two-three punch of FBI investigation + house of cards aspects to the NIZ business failings + worst Winter storm of the past 50 years is sending The Renaissance back to The Dark Ages.

Anonymous said...

Thank You Bernie,
And this equally includes Micheal too, for all the fine and insightful behind the scenes "postings" that the both of you do, in your respective styles.
To quote the late great Paul Harvey: "And that's rest of the Story"
Paul Fiske ( "The Old Allentown Curmudgeon")

Anonymous said...

Some municipalities have exchange of services or reimbursemnt agreements with other local authorities. Inow years past, it was my impression that Allentown'starts Water and Sewer department as sites with city plowing. I presume that service wentered bye bye when the City leased away these assets. However, I suspect the new carpet and furniture in the Mayors office is just grand.

Anonymous said...

And some want government to take on more tasks it's ill-prepared to handle. They had one job ...

Anonymous said...

I wonder if the blog mentor's offspring was raised by him to be as viciously antisemitic and had to explain it to St. Peter at the Pearly Gates? Seems like it guarantees a ticket to the down escalator.

Anonymous said...

When our water was sold smart snow plowing ended.
Pay more, get less.

I hope the mayor gets sent to a private prison.
I wonder if his pal Jennings will visit.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I have heard that many trucks that were once the property of the City and that would have been used now belong to the water authority and were unavailable. I am trying to get the facts and don't know for sure if what I heard is accurate.

Rich Fegley said...

As far as I know, we transferred all trucks and equipment to the LCA. I've been shown that many of the workers were moved to the Parks Department. 30 or more workers are now on the Parks Department budget.

During the LCA lease debate, it was shown that the City would lose all of the resources for snow removal. The water sewer guys were the ones who cleared the snow.

The LCA made sure all of the roads were clear to their assets. Constitution Drive was plowed clear on Saturday. I don't think any snow accumulated on that lesser used road.

Why isn't anyone discuss this issue, Bernie? I don't think anyone really understands this.

We were also supposed to get a $4.5 million annual payment from the LCA. Pawlowski and Strathearn gave that up along with the men and the trucks and the plows.

Anonymous said...

Some years ago the King sent a proclamation to each village in the land, From each village send me an idiot sayeth the King and lo it happened. From each village came an idiot to Allentown and the King was pleased

Anonymous said...

I worked with Matt Kerr at WAEB. He was from a long line of very competent newsmen at the station, followed by Brian Downs and now Dan Holzman. Sadly, local radio just doesn't devote the resources to fully covering the news. Dan does his best to be a solid news guy even after serving as Gunther's side-kick. Also, I have no problem with radio guys using stage names even after leaving broadcasting. They have built up equity in their ID and have right to trade off of it.

Anonymous said...

Will someone please explain.Do we have to still pay all the former water department employees or are they being paid by the LCA? It was stated that 30 employees were put in the parks dept. The question is-are there less employees on the city payroll now since we no longer have a water dept.

Anonymous said...

There was also intermixing of staff and resources in the past between the Allentown water service and the parks and recreation bureaus. The parkway helps to protect the Allentown area water supply, so for many years in the past, the City rationalized that water funds could be used to subsidize parks and pools. One of the reasons why the water and sewer lease occurred was because there was a state law that made it harder to divert water funds to other purposes.

Anonymous said...

I mention the above comment because there may have been some employees who were technically in the water bureau but who were actually spending most of their time doing parks and pool maintenance and snow plowing. Some former water and sewer employees were also transferred over to storm drainage maintenance, I believe, in order to meet some expanded federal requirements and to maintain rapidly aging pipes and inlets.

Anonymous said...

The LCA projects 2.5 billion in revenues for the first 35 years of the lease. I think we lost a lot more then equipment.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the township can stage snow on million dollar flood plain$. Now it is justified, thy Mayor proclaim.

Anonymous said...

City can charge a fee.

Anonymous said...

Bad boys, Bad boys/ What'cha gonna do? What'cha gonna do when they come for you?

Anonymous said...

WHEN OUR WATER WAS SOLD --- SMART SNOW PLOWING ENDED.

Anonymous said...

The so called Water Shed Dept., stationed in the Parkway masterminded snow plowing.
These guys were very good and knew what they were doing.
The entire department was Xed out. Gone.
Their knowledge and dedication went with them.
Anybody who knew anything could see this breakdown in service is coming a mile away.
The mayor choose to ignore it and pretend it wasn't an issue, so now he tells bald face lie about the amount of snow that was expected.
This is what the man does when confronted with an unpleasant reality. Among other things, he's a liar.

Anonymous said...

When we bought our house our pockets were a high traffic area.Sales in Allentown appear to be around 100 / mo.Plus refi's plus etc.. Is it calculable the amount the tax spenders are not receiving per month. And how will I get screwed!

Bernie O'Hare said...

5:11, nobody disputes that the City can charge a fee for a tax cert.

Anonymous said...

At one time I lived on possibly the most plowed street in Allentown . In one 16 hour period 12/13 inches of snow. 17 groups yes groups of plows plowed this street. They were from 4/5 different departments including penndot. They came back when I was sleeping so I can add only 1 to the total. I miss the old days.!!

Anonymous said...

Everyone who was ever in on the inside knows Ed can lie at the drop of a Sunday school hat.
He knew it was time to head to Harrisburg if not DC.
He absolutely had to leave town by the time the reality of the Water sell off caught up with him.
Too late!!!
Years of dirty dealing and lies have come home to roost.
Of course you won't talk about his case tomorrow. What people will hear is a bunch of self-serving bullshit, and a few more lies.

Anonymous said...

This rotund little turd has bullied and lied to lots of people over the years.
The beer's on me the day he is slapped in cuffs.
I have as much sympathy for his family as he has had for the families of those he has harmed.
Absolutely none.
None whatsoever.

Anonymous said...

Solar powered heated streets.

Bernie O'Hare said...

We already have those. They'recalled macadam.

Anonymous said...

Tru dat

Rich Fegley said...

City Hall is full of liars. We leased it all away.

Anonymous said...

Bernie I was told by someone that works in local government that the reason for declaration of a snow emergency by borough's, townships and cities in PA is if there is federal monies or state aid you have to have made a declaration prior to the storm to qualify and not after the fact. So if the city of Allentown didn't declare a snow emegency and say the president declares then Allentown wouldn't be eligible. Is that true?

Bernie O'Hare said...

Not true, so far as I know. Your friend appears to have this mixed up with a disaster declaration, under which normal bidding requirements can be ignored. Fed Ed does that anyway.

Anonymous said...

Who's the anonymous idiot who wrote " the mayor is finally doing something right" and Allentown was a song by Springsteen !?!? Someone is dillusional !

Charlie Sch said...

The federal government has the ability to declare a disaster, after a local or state request. That can make federal funds available for damages. However, it is extremely rare for federal disaster funds to be available for snow. I believe it has happened only once in PA. In the Lehigh Valley, federal funds have often been made available in response to severe flooding.

That process is completely separate from a municipal declaration of a snow emergency, which mainly affects on-street parking.