Thursday, May 05, 2016
Diane Donaher Resigns as NorCo DCED Director
One of Executive John Brown's first appointments, her job history is full of short stays: United Way - 2 1/2 years; LV Business Education Partnership - two years; and Skills USA for just a year. She also worked in Bethlehem's DCED for three years. Her longest stint is her 15 years with SkillsUSA, which seems to focus on training kids for jobs.
She was even a voice-over artist!
Creative Sound Studios described her as "[m]iddle aged, a voice you can trust, [with] approachable narrations." In fact, in this little audio segment, Donaher shills for the "country wineries" and "working farms" of Bucks County.
Before Brown's appointment, Donaher had not worked in economic development in 13 years. During confirmation hearings, she stated that she had worked on a KOZ, a specialized economic development tool, in Bethlehem. But Bethlehem has never had one. She also disparaged the office she will be heading, claiming they are all office types, unlike her.
Only Bob Werner and Ken Kraft voted against her confirmation.
Soon after she was confirmed, Brown wanted her installed as the Executive Director of the Gaming Authority. They said no. Unanimously.
She also wanted to take over departments like the Conservation District, whose role can be directly at odds with economic development.
In the meantime, her own department became bloated, and will soon move to Human Services.
Her biggest achievement is a $1 million grants and loan program, funded with table games revenue, to spur business and jobs in the County's smaller communities. Whether that program is successful remains to be seen. This is called the Community Investment Partnership Program (CIPP), and $1.3 million was recently awarded.
Her biggest failure was her unilateral decision to seize control over nearly $500,000 in tourism grants funded with hotel taxes. It was a surprising display of hubris from someone who was unable to explain whether she's created a single job, not counting the ones in her own department. She proposed handing out a major block grant to the Northampton County Historical Society, and letting it decide how to dole out the money. Council had a minor eruption, and John Brown quickly restored the normal grants process. He fell on the sword for Donaher, taking the blame for a misunderstanding.
Nobody was fooled. Many agencies were as a result delayed in receiving funding on which they rely every year.
After that miscue, she pulled another fast one late last year when she scheduled a private meeting between county boards and a consultant she wanted to hire. The meeting was canceled when this blog noted that it was a violation of the Sunshine Act.
Prior to her appointment, Northampton County had survived without a DCED Director through two terms of the John Stoffa administration. Though Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation is criticized for treating Northampton County like an ugly step sister, the reality is that it has done more to promote economic development in Northampton County than what has been done in-house. The department should be restructured so that it serves the goal of community development, which is more suited to county government.
Updated 2:55 pm